Earlier this year, Marc Carig of The Athletic published a report on a belt, awarded as a prize at the GM meetings every year to the team that did the most to “achieve the goals set by the industry.” That’s code for salary suppression in arbitration.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark responded to the report, saying, “That clubs make sport of trying to suppress salaries in a process designed to produce fair settlements shows a blatant lack of respect for our Players, the game, and the arbitration process itself.”
The prize belt hadn’t been particularly well-known except by agents and various officials involved in the arbitration process. But following Carig’s report, it became emblematic of the labor strife within the sport. That’s why, as Carig now reports, the league will stop awarding the belt, saying it is not in their best interest to keep doing so. In other words: it’s bad PR.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021. Many are worried that there will be a work stoppage, interrupting 25 years of labor peace. Along with arbitration, other sources of tension include free agency, suspicion of collusion, and the qualifying offer system. The odds that all of those issues and more are addressed satisfactorily seems low. The union got squashed during negotiations for the current CBA and won’t want to make that same mistake again. And the league knows better than to poke a hungry bear.