Owners versus Owners

I feel somewhat defeated today in trying to write a Sunday column. I like to be optimistic and bring some positivity to proceedings, but sometimes that’s hard to do.

None of us were surprised on Tuesday when the MLB CBA talks failed to produce a deal by MLB’s self-imposed deadline. That didn’t make it any the less deflating, though.

I wrote last week that I didn’t blame the MLB owners for setting a deadline, as that’s usually what’s needed to get a deal done; however it’s become increasingly clear that it was a PR exercise rather than a genuine effort to help come to an agreement.

The positive noises on Monday that led to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred extending the deadline by one day were a mirage, carefully created on MLB’s side to try to push public opinion towards the players bringing the matter to a conclusion by accepting a less-favourable deal. That was never going to work, as Manfred and the owners knew all too well.

Add it to the long list of items that demonstrate the cynical and uncaring attitude that MLB owners have towards baseball fans.

The most interesting detail about the to-ing and fro-ing at the start of the week came from the owners’ side and that four owners actually voted against the final offer that was rejected by the players.

When SNY broke the news I was quick to point the finger at a certain Mr J. Fisher:

Well, it turned out that for once I had done our owner a disservice. In fact, The Athletic subsequently revealed that it was the Angels, Diamondbacks, Reds and Tigers who didn’t want the offer to be proposed, based on their dislike at increasing the Competitive Balance Tax threshold up to $220m.

I posted what I’d like to think was a suitably measured apology:

Fisher-baiting to one side, it is very illustrative of the fact that whilst publicly the CBA talks are a battle between owners and players, it’s actually as much about an ongoing battle between the 30 owners.

It’s Manfred’s responsibility to manage the internal politics, and he gets very well remunerated for it, but that shouldn’t make us underestimate how complicated a task he has. The 30 ownership groups are a diverse bunch, made all the more so by the significant differences found between the 30 local markets that host MLB teams.

The likes of the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers are always going to hold a big financial advantage over other teams because of the markets they are able to exploit. It’s to no one’s benefit if there are a whole bunch of teams who, however well they try to run their clubs, will always struggle to compete against them. At the same time, it’s entirely fair that the big market teams are able to benefit from their success in bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue into the game.

Coming up with a set of rules that strikes a fair balance is very difficult, especially when it is the 30 ownership groups who will be voting on them. But again, that’s exactly why Rob Manfred gets paid so handsomely.

It’s time he earned some of that money by getting the 30 ownership groups to propose a fair CBA that the players can sign up to, not least because it’s obvious there are plenty of owners who want him to.

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