MLB deserves every bit of criticism as it continues to choose money over the people

MLB lockout
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

When MLB commissioner Rob Manfred took the podium for a rare press conference to help shed some light on the owner-induced lockout last week, it was more than understandable to take everything he uttered with a grain of salt. 

The man who has put the money and the best interest of the billionaire owners crying poor especially over the last two years was suddenly showing optimism that the fruitless negotiations between the league and the players’ union was going to show progress when the two parties met on Saturday. 

He wasn’t ready to admit that spring training would be delayed. He said that he was hoping for the 2022 season to start on time, with Opening Day scheduled for March 31. He even went as far as to say that losing games this season would be “disastrous.”

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Any sort of pessimist — which most people involved with baseball in any capacity should be at this point — would have labeled this a ploy. Manfred would drum up optimism that the owners’ proposal to the players on Saturday in New York would finally extend the olive branch toward the players rather than remain immovable in any of the core economic issues that are keeping the two sides so far apart. 

And that’s exactly what happened. 

The players described the owners’ proposal as underwhelming and unimpressive, cementing the already-known fact that spring training won’t be starting on time. After all, pitchers and catchers are supposed to be reporting as early as Monday with exhibition games scheduled to begin on Feb. 26. 

The league proposed an incremental increase to the competitive balance tax threshold, but not by much. Their original numbers of $214 million in 2022, $214 million in 2023, $214 million in 2024, $216 million in 2025, and $220 million in 2026 bumped ever so slightly to $214 million, $214 million, $216 million, $218 million, and $222 million.

For teams who go over that threshold, they’ll still be hit with a 50% tax, but they won’t have to lose a third-round draft pick which, again, did not move the needle much. 

Amendments to the league’s minimum salary policy aren’t seeing much progress, either. The players want a $775,000 minimum salary for all pre-arbitration players, but the league came back with a tiered system of $615,000 for players with zero to one year of service time, $650,000 for players between one and two years, and $725,000 for those between two and three years or a $630,000 minimum salary for all pre-arbitration players. 

If only Manfred was legitimately concerned about the fans and getting baseball started on time, there might be some actual hope that Opening Day will come on time. But the game of baseball continues to experience hit after hit in the court of public opinion as a game starving to stay relevant in terms of popularity within the North American “Big 4” remains focused on the dollars and cents rather than its actual product. 

And at this point, it deserves every bit of the fan backlash that has been continuously crashing down upon it over the last 10-plus weeks.