It took all of seven minutes for the two sides to leave the negotiating table. In hindsight, the meeting at the Four Seasons Dallas at Las Colinas in Texas yesterday was a formality; clearly, both Major League Baseball and the players union figured on sticking to their demands. Never mind that the existing collective bargaining agreement ends today, and that the league is expected to thereafter declare a lockout. Barring an unforeseen positive turn to the talks, the projected development has the pro scene facing its first work stoppage since the August 1994 strike.
If there’s any silver lining to the impasse, it’s that the MLB has some time to get its act straight. The three months separating the holidays from the start of the 2022 season may well spur quarters to keep an open mind in regard to supposedly nonnegotiable issues. Regardless of perspective, these concerns do matter, and need to be threshed out. That said, hardline positions wind up hurting everybody — even the sport itself, which has yet to recover from the pandemic and remains in dire need of a more fan-friendly image.
To be sure, those who pay tickets and go through turnstiles to see the games don’t care about the financials of a system seemingly capable of spreading the wealth, the negative effects of health protocols on economic activity at the consumer level notwithstanding. Not that the players aren’t right to push for increased pay and mobility during their primes, or that owners can’t be praised for refraining from entertaining the prospect of a hard salary cap as a bargaining chip. Bottom line, fans don’t care for the inner workings of the sport; they just like to see the action, free from politics.
How the standoff will be resolved is anybody’s guess. The best-case scenario has both sides reaching a compromise as early as possible, and in the next couple of months. Else, the lockout will eat into spring training, with lost revenues from games that should have gone on entering the equation. Which is too bad, because good intentions abound. The only problem is where enough of them can be found to compel all and sundry to look at the forest instead of the trees.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.