Yesterday there was a load of activity surrounding the MLBPA’s counteroffer of a 70-game season to Major League Baseball’s offer on Wednesday of a 60-game season. Some reports had the owners allegedly “livid” at the counter. Rob Manfred himself claimed confusion that he was receiving a counteroffer to begin with, claiming that in his mind he and Tony Clark had an actual deal or something close to it on Wednesday.
It’s hard to take the owners’ claim of anger and outrage seriously. There’s a ten-game difference between the proposals. It’s not miles and miles. When someone is that close to you in a negotiation you may feign anger for a moment, but you know you’re near a deal and you split the difference. Or third the difference. The point being, you’re in the home stretch.
It’s even harder to take Rob Manfred’s claim that he thought he had a deal on Wednesday seriously. If for no other reason than (a) the players said Wednesday afternoon that there was no deal; and (b) Manfred’s own statement on Wednesday acknowledged as much.
Yet the performative outrage is continuing. Check this out from Jon Heyman last night:
MLB owners are so upset by the players’ counterproposal — which is said for about $300M more — that no response is expected to be immediate. Time is obviously getting short so hopefully it’s not too long, of course.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 18, 2020
First off, I’d be pretty skeptical about that “$300 million more,” both on its own terms and in terms of its significance even if true. The players’ offer, after all, contains a proposal for expanded playoffs for two years and waives grievance rights. The owners get neither of those things if no deal is reached and they simply impose a season. As for the significance, $300 million is $10 million per team, which you’d knock down to $5 million a team if the sides were to split the difference at 65 games. That’s the cost of a relief pitcher. One would think that’d be a fair price to pay to actually play a season and to realize many, many times that back again in postseason money. Even if you disagree with that, one has to acknowledge that the sides are not that far apart.
So why all of the drama? I suspect it’s about running out the clock.
The longer the sides go without reaching a deal the less time there is, practically, to fit in a certain number of games. The owners, it is becoming apparent, would love to fit in as few games as possible but would like to do it in such a way to avoid the players filing a grievance for bad faith negotiating. All of this stomping of feet and renting of garments, then, strikes me as a stalling tactic.
Does that seem like good faith to you? Does that make it seem like the owners even want a season?