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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 3/2/22

Rob Manfred laughs as he cancels games; the owners are being dangerously shortsighted as they try to break the union; what happens next?

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MLB Owners Meetings Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

ESPN | ESPN News Services: For the first time in 27 years, Major League Baseball will be canceling regular season games due to a labor dispute. After the Player’s Association rejected the league’s “final, best offer” prior to yesterday’s MLB-imposed 5:00 p.m. deadline, Rob Manfred announced that the first two series of the season — roughly a week’s worth of games — will be canceled, and at this point in time, the league has absolutely no intention of rescheduling.

In a statement, the union announced that they were “not surprised” by the league’s decision, and frankly, neither should anyone. As The Athletic’s Evan Drellich wrote the other day, “Opening Day never had a chance” because the owners were intent on nickel and diming the players for every spare penny.

Just like he did when the lockout began on December 2nd, Rob Manfred published a highly disingenuous “letter to baseball fans” after announcing the canceled games that attempted to pin the blame on the MLBPA. Just like last time, we’re not going to link to his statement, although you can find it rather easily through Google.

The Athletic | Andy McCullough (subscription required): “They might not break the union. But they will break something.” With these words, Andy McCullough ends his column about the high price that Major League Baseball has paid this winter, and will continue to pay going forward. As the sport has lost ground in the nation’s cultural consciousness to football and basketball, the league could have spent the winter figuring out how to market its large cast of stars from throughout the world — guys like Shohei Ohtani, Fernando Tatís Jr., and Juan Soto. Instead, they spent their time demonizing the same players they rely on for their profits, all in the name of making a quick buck.

Just how much will they pay for that quick buck?

Sports Illustrated | Stephanie Apstein: When you really think about it, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association did not exactly ask for much. Despite the fact that the last few Collective Bargaining Agreements were decidedly pro-ownership, the union did not seek to reinvent the sport’s economic landscape, instead settling for “a cost-of-living increase.” Instead, it is the owners that have sought substantial playoffs, advocating to increase the number of playoff teams by four, to permit the league to sell advertisements on jerseys, and by further curtailing spending with more stringent luxury tax penalties.

In theory, the league’s owners ought to invest in the sport’s long-term viability, as they could be a part of the game for decades (and their children potentially longer still). Instead, however, they have the memory of the goldfish; if they actually read their history, according to Stanford economist and MLBPA consultant Roger Noll, they would learn that owners tend to lose more money in the long run than the players do every time there’s a work stoppage, simply by how much they harm the game.

For a not-so-fun aside about the fairness of all this, the players are forced to discuss the lockout with the media. The owners, on the other hand, have universally refused Sports Illustrated’s requests for interviews — if they even bother to respond at all. Talk about accountability.

CBS Sports | Mike Axisa: So, Opening Day has been canceled. But what does that mean? Mike Axisa breaks down the implications of Manfred’s aggressive decision, from the obvious (regular season games will be missed) to those that we had heard about previously (the player’s union has threatened to pull expanded playoffs from the negotiation if a full season isn’t played). Axisa also notes that the league has refused to budge on raising the Collective Balance Tax, which has been one of the union’s biggest sources of contention, and also reports that Manfred claims the league has not issued a “last, best offer.”

Emphasis needs to be placed on the word “claims” here, as other sources have said that the league did use this language. This is significant, as “last, best offer” opens the door to the league declaring an impasse and getting the courts involved.

Sports Illustrated | Ben Silver: Rob Manfred was not the only one to have a press conference yesterday, as MLBPA leader Tony Clark held one of his own. Clark noted that, although talks were “productive,” the game has been “damaged” and “manipulated” for years and needs to be fixed.

More significant, in my opinion, than the press conference itself was the fact that both ESPN and MLB Network broadcast Manfred’s comments, but not Clark’s. I don’t know about you, but that seems awfully manipulative. Only SNY did not cut away from it.

While not full-fledged articles, I just wanted to highlight two tweets about the end of yesterday’s negotiations and Manfred’s demeanor at his press conference.

Given Manfred’s history of being, how should we put it, cavalier about the sport that he is supposed to represent, this was not a good look. In many ways, it might just give us a bit of insight into the owners’ mindset: happiness that everything is going exactly according to plan.