MLB is Back
By: JOSEPH SIMILE / SPORTS CO-EDITOR
Baseball, America’s pastime, is back!
After a long hiatus during ongoing CBA negotiations between the MLB owners and the MLB Players’ Union, a new deal has been agreed upon and the lockout was lifted.
Initially locked out on Dec. 2, 2021, the players union was seeking demands that were meant to enhance player control over the terms of their contracts and increase wages.
This was an especially prevalent issue for Major Leaguers who have not accrued six years of Major League service time.
Under the previous system, generally players who had under three years of service time were considered “pre-arbitration” players, and players who have between three and six years of service time are arbitration players. (There is a special class of “Super 2 Players”, who is a player between two and three years of service time, with at least 86 days of service time during their second year. They rank in the top 22% of players in that classification and are granted arbitration a year earlier.)
Pre-arbitration players typically make around the league minimum, while players in arbitration will have the opportunity to present an offer they believe is fair (while the player's team also provides an offer), and if the two sides are unable to agree to a figure, they present their cases in arbitration hearings, where a panel will decide which figure is closer to fair value.
Some fans choose to be angry at the players, citing the contracts of the game's top players, such as Mike Trout, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Juan Soto. However, those aren’t really the ones this lockout was affecting.
Look at Steven Wilson, an 8th round pick in 2018. He had a $5,000 signing bonus which he put towards his master’s degree. He made $10,000 in 2019, less in 2020, and around $18,000 in 2021.
However, during the offseason he was finally placed on the 40 man roster. Thus, he too was locked out. He has been driving Uber since January in order to support him and his family.
Wilson entered minor league baseball with $13,000 in student debt. There are real humans who have made poverty wages their whole career that were being affected by this lockout.
Greed and bottom line were affecting the livelihoods of these players. This isn’t even to mention stadium staff, team workers, and others in local markets whose jobs rely on baseball games being played.
Many fans had been frustrated with the owners. Reporters and fans alike believe that the owners had not negotiated in good faith.
There was a period of 43 days in which the owners outright refused to negotiate with or acknowledge the union.
Despite the owners locking out the players (opposed to the players striking, which they did in 1994), yhe owners also set multiple deadlines for a deal to be done, and despite various efforts and sacrifices from the players, the owners have not come down from some of their demands. Deadlines had passed and the league had initially canceled two weeks of games, which are now to be made up at a later date.
Many media members, fans, and players were frustrated with how negotiations had gone.
Renowned ESPN reporter Jeff Passan tweeted in the union’s support, “If you went and got the next 1,200 best players in the world, the product would suffer greatly. If you handed MLB teams over to any 30 competent businesspeople, the sport would not suffer. Actually, it might improve."
Long Island native Marcus Stroman criticized Commissioner Rob Manfred multiple times on social media, referring to him as “Manclown” and requesting he “stop ruining baseball."
Mets owner Steve Cohen is known as a massive Mets fan. Making his fortune in the hedge fund industry, Cohen bought the Mets as a hobby. He wanted to use his great fortune to bring his beloved team success.
Cohen is perhaps more motivated than any owner to get a deal done.
He is also a known Twitter user (a quite comedic one, at that). It was brought to the attention of fans that Cohen liked a tweet stating, “Maybe I’m way off here but I don’t think MLB would ever accept an offer from the MLBPA. They want to have the upper hand. They want their offer accepted or denied."
Cohen is involved heavily in the negotiations, as he is a principal owner. One would imagine he would take the owners side, but perhaps by liking this tweet he had confirmed many fans’ suspicions that they aren’t negotiating in good faith.
Cohen told Joel Sherman of the New York Post and MLB Network that his liking of the tweet was “totally unintentional."
He further claimed he does not even know how to retweet. Known sarcasm master, Cohen, has retweeted quite a few tweets in his day, and is known for his derision of reporters' questions when trying to relay a message he himself can’t outright say.
On March 10, 2022, a new CBA was agreed upon.
Some of the final details include a pre-arbitration bonus pool of $50 million for pre-arbitration players.
Minimum salary has been bumped up to $700,000, with a sliding scale increasing by $20,000 each year of the CBA.
New terms for the Competitive Balance Tax were agreed upon, with limits at $230 million and $244 million.
A new third surcharge and fourth level of CBT was also instituted, known as the “Steve Cohen Tax," for Cohen’s quickly earned reputation as a heavy spender for his club.
There will now be a universal designated hitter for both the American and National League.
The amateur draft was also permanently cut down from 40 to 20 rounds.
In addition, players can be optioned down to minor league clubs only 5 times per year.
There will also now be a draft lottery for non-playoff teams to earn the top six picks.
Fans and players alike have rejoiced at the news of a new deal being agreed upon. America’s beloved game is back.
Passan was one of the first reporters to break the news, and it came on a day when his Twitter account was hacked, with the hackers trying to sell NFTs. It was an amazing day for baseball.