Rob Manfred exuded an inordinate amount of optimism on Thursday while forecasting the future of the MLB lockout as negotiations between the owners and players’ union remain in an intense stalemate.
The ball is currently in the owners’ court. After little progress was made when the players’ union sent an offer across the line toward the end of last month, the owners initially called for a third-party mediator to oversee negotiations rather than counter the players.
Manfred disclosed that with the owners’ meetings coming to a close on Thursday down in Florida, they’ll return to the table with an offer to the players’ union on Saturday.
“We are going to make a good faith positive proposal [on Saturday] to move the process forward,” Manfred said. “It’s a good proposal.”
Upon areas of progress being made, Manfred did reveal that the universal designated hitter will be instituted on a full-time basis in 2022. It finally allows the National League to adopt the DH and eliminate pitchers from hitting — opening the door for a surge in offensive production to make the product more appealing for a fan base that wants to see more runs scored.
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Manfred also revealed that the league has “moved toward the players” in talks regarding a draft lottery to keep competitive integrity intact along with an increase in the minimum payments to younger players.
Of course, the universal DH is only good if there is baseball to be played. With just a few days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training on Feb. 14, Manfred still wasn’t ready to officially delay it.
“The status of spring training is no change right now,” Manfred said, potentially heaping a ton of expectations on the owners’ proposal this Saturday. “You’re always one breakthrough away from making an agreement.”
It would take an almost-immediate agreement between the two parties for spring training to actually start on time, though. While there is still much to reconcile in negotiations, it will take roughly a week after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is agreed upon for the league to get spring training up and running.
The first spring training games are scheduled for Feb. 26 where Manfred insisted at least one month is needed to get players ready for the regular season.
Opening Day is scheduled for March 31, which doesn’t leave much wiggle room.
“I’m an optimist, and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular-season schedule,” Manfred said before shifting his tune to the importance of getting the 2022 campaign started on time.
“I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry. I’m committed to reaching an agreement.”