In a column for The Athletic published on Friday, Ken Rosenthal reported that players asked union officials in a conference call about collectively refusing to report to spring training until February 24, the mandatory reporting date. Union officials said that would constitute an unlawful strike in violation of the CBA, so the players put the kibosh on the idea.
Just to make things clear, the MLBPA released a statement on Sunday clarifying that the union isn’t threatening or recommending any such boycott.
In the past week or so, we’ve seen some agents (Brodie Van Wagenen and Josh Kusnick) and some players (Kenley Jansen) make some public comments regarding the current situation that finds many free agents teamless with spring training on the horizon. It was Van Wagenen in particular who threw out the idea of a spring training boycott, writing, “There is a rising tide among players for radical change. A fight is brewing. And it may begin with one, maybe two, and perhaps 1,200 willing to follow. A boycott of Spring Training may be a starting point, if behavior doesn’t change.”
Players and agents can go rogue all they want, but as a cohesive group, the union wants to make sure all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed, so to speak, when it’s going up against ownership. As Craig pointed out on Twitter, players and agents are only “going rogue” because they feel like their voices are not currently being adequately represented by the union. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that one player wanted to make a mockery of the arbitration process by filing for a salary figure ending in 420,069. The player ultimately decided against doing that. Other players have suggested starting their own free agent spring training camp.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021. That’s a long time from now. The owners and the players are going to eventually have to work together to bring balance back to the marketplace. Passan quotes an unnamed longtime agent saying, “The war drums today are louder than they were in 1993. There is anger. Real anger.”