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Bill Shaikin: MLB owners make their bargaining position clear: No

Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES — As major league teams lavished close to $2 billion on players in the final days ahead of Wednesday night’s lockout, fans and analysts frantically searched for clues toward the resolution of baseball’s labor mess. Team owners were Oprah one day — a big fat contract for you, for you, for all of you! — and the Grinch the next. What does it all mean?

After Commissioner Rob Manfred and union chief Tony Clark staged news conferences Thursday, what it all means appears plain. The owners spent all that money on the premise that baseball’s economic system under the next collective bargaining agreement will look pretty much the same as it did under the old one.

The owners, at least, already have decided how the lockout will end. As the owners appear to see it, based on the news conferences from both sides, the players will back off on what they have prioritized as core issues, or the next major league game will take place a long, long time from now.

Since owners value younger players more than ever, the union argues, the owners should pay younger players better than ever: salary arbitration after two years instead of three; free agency after five years instead of six.

Bruce Meyer, the lead union negotiator, said the owners refuse to discuss those issues. Manfred, in his news conference, was not shy about saying why.

“Bad for the sport, bad for the fans, and bad for competitive balance,” Manfred said.

 

Manfred focused on the proposal to let players hit free agency sooner.

“I think we already have teams in smaller markets that struggle to compete,” he said. “Shortening the period of time that they control players makes it even harder for them to compete.

“It’s also bad for fans in those markets. The most negative reaction we have is when a player leaves via free agency. … Making it available earlier, we don’t see that as a positive.”

The Dodgers have Mookie Betts because the Boston Red Sox did not want to pay him market value and traded him even before he could reach free agency.

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