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Royals Rumblings - News for March 4, 2022

MLB Owners Lockout: Day 92

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International Brands In Poland
MLB Owner (stock photo)
Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Let’s pretend we’re going to talk about baseball. The Royals have new digs for the minor leaguers:

This building is called The Fountains, and it’s the Royals’ new housing facility for player development. It opened Nov. 19 and is now at full capacity with Minor League Spring Training in full go, and it has received rave reviews.

“It’s so nice,” said catcher Kale Emshoff, an undrafted free agent in 2020. “It’s way better than the hotel I was in last year. I can’t even explain how cool it is to live here.”

“It’s unheard of,” said infielder Michael Massey, who was drafted out of the University of Illinois in 2019. “I text my buddies who play for other organizations and they’re like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But it’s all I know.”

Darin Watson at U.L.’s Toothpick gets the #2 spot today. Back in 2020, with no baseball due to the pandemic, Darin covered the 1980 Royals team day-by-day. For instance, on July 3rd, he talked about whatever happened to the Royals on July 3rd, 1980. This time he’s back with 1977. He’s starting the season with team previews. Here’s a sample from today’s:

We finish our offseason review of the Royals’ AL West competitors with the Chicago White Sox, who brought up the rear in the division in 1976. In fact, they had the worst record in the American League at 64-97, and were only kept from baseball’s worst record by the woeful Montreal Expos (55-107).

I really enjoyed his 1980 recaps a couple of years ago and I’ll be reading these this year.

At The Star, Vahe Gregorian writes that if GMDM were commish* we wouldn’t be here:

Honestly, if he were commissioner of baseball I believe this might well have been resolved before it began. Not simply because of his words on this day but for his diplomatic skills, sheer love of the game and appreciation for all constituents. Given the chaotic climate, his willingness to speak on Wednesday about “the heart of baseball” and take questions and say “I’m sorry we are where we are” to fans was particularly admirable.

*lol - spell check wants to autocorrect this to “commissar”

But he really hits home what I’ve been feeling the last couple of days with these paragraphs:

And how much more oafish and tone-deaf does all this look against the never-ending news crawl backdrops of Russia’s alarming siege of Ukraine, the insanity in U.S. politics and a lingering pandemic that the baseball season should be able to at least momentarily divert us from?

Instead, we’re already left with what commissioner Rob Manfred a few weeks ago called the “disastrous outcome” of scuttling regular-season games. And who was to say as of Wednesday afternoon when this nonsense will end?

Hell, we’ll just use this as the transition to the MLB section since the owners seem hell bent on cancelling April anyway and then using the missed back wages as a bargaining chip.

I have found that during the labor negotiations, I only need 3 Twitter feeds and I’ll have almost all the actual news covered. Everyone else is just retweeting these three:

So it make sense that I’d go to Drellich to update you on yesterday’s news:

As part of the next phase of negotiating, owners are floating the story that four owners actually voted against the MLB proposal as going too far (only 23 of 30 are needed to approve):

Some of the more hawkish owners — who claim financial hardship without showing their books — felt on Tuesday that they had already made a significant compromise in agreeing to a 12-team expanded playoff field, rather than 14 teams, which MLB strongly preferred.

Owners also felt that by dropping CBT rates back to status quo levels, they had made another significant move in the players’ direction. Players found it absurd to frame a return to a status quo with which they were deeply unhappy as a concession, and it’s easy to see their point on that one.

A faction of hawkish owners has long made it difficult to assemble a proposal that strikes the owners as fair. At the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. last month, one attendee said that some owners vowed to “not go up one penny” from the current CBT threshold of $210 million.

Remember how Ken Rosenthal was fired from MLB a couple of months ago for criticizing Rob Manfred? He’s unfiltered now that he’s not beholden to them (from The Athletic, sub required)

Manfred and Co. think the fans will come back, because they always come back. They think the players ultimately will break, and in fact that might be the league’s goal. The owners initiated a lockout three months ago, then made a belated, strategic bull rush toward the players on Monday and Tuesday. Naturally, their last-minute pressure backfired, just as everything in this relationship backfires. As Manfred listed all of the wonders in the league’s “best and final” offer, it was as if he could not believe the players’ ingratitude.

Wilson Contreras of the Cubs shares part of Rosenthal’s article

(Do Instagram embeds work? I have no idea, so let’s try it out today. Let me know in the comments)

Jason Heyward shared similar thoughts on his Instagram:

They know the proposals they made were geared towards benefiting them significantly enough that if the players ever elected to accept the terms it would be a big win for them and a huge loss for the current and future players of this game. Each time both sides “went to the table..” they chose to acknowledge bits and pieces of what needed to be discussed to delay and drag out the whole process..

They continued to make offers they know were in the players best interest to refuse.. Hoping both sides could continue to “disagree..” and that they would get their end GOAL… their GOAL of delaying the 2022 MLB season….

Bottom line.. they know the amount of games we need to play in order for them to profit.. they view the first month of the season as debt… season delayed = they meet their goals..

So, basically, this is all crystallizing around the idea that the owners don’t really want April baseball anyway. With that in mind, three baseball writers at CBS Sports take a stab at when Opening Day might be (spoilers: May 1, May 1, July 1):

Matt Snyder: May 1 is a Sunday and we’ve seen the league many times play a few games on a Sunday before the official “Opening Day” on Monday. As such, I’m going with 1-3 games on Sunday, May 1 for a “soft” Opening Day with the full Opening Day coming on Monday, May 2.

I think this makes the owners incredibly short-sighted and they’re playing with fire.

David Hill at Fansided site Call to the Pen observes that MLB lockout putting Jackie Robinson Day in danger.

Finally, we get to our big three Royals blogs and they’re all uniform in their condemnation of the owners, in particular. I’ll pontificate first and then turn it over to them.

Look, in Kansas City, we’re really familiar with the competitive imbalance within the game. David Glass fought for small markets for a numbers of years, particularly in the early 2000s. We’re not Yankees fans who know our team will always spend a bunch of money and be in a good position to contend. We know competitive balance is important and money does matter in baseball and that it would be in our team’s best interest if there were less spending and more playoffs. But it’s not what’s for the good of the game and it’s not what is fair.

I know this isn’t my original idea but it’s one I strongly subscribe to: we’re in a major cultural upheaval in many aspects of life. There will be a “before COVID” and an “after COVID”, much like other generational events in history (unless WW3 breaks out, in which case COVID would just be chapter 1 of that story). The pandemic changed a lot of consumer choices for people in the way that a major life change like a marriage or child or move does. Only it happened for everyone at the same time. People spent 2 years /not/ going to baseball games and those old habits may be broken. Not for the most hardcore fans - I mean most of us on the blog went through 1994 and are still here; we’re just gluttons for punishment. Though in 1994, I was heartbroken. This time I’m just disgusted.

But the casual fan - how likely are they to return in an increasingly fragmented entertainment world? You need to be swarming them with reasons to come back as regular inertia is working against you even before the lockout. Instead, MLB is pushing them further away. How’s it going for any studio releasing a movie not named Spider-Man, restaurants that are dine-in only, or tourist businesses like hotels and airlines?

The game already has headwinds and the owners are making it much worse to save a few million bucks that they were already “ahead” on. It’s not accounting dust, but they’re risking their game for maybe 10% savings when they already have the sweetest deal of all professional sports. And why? Because they think they can get away with it, long term consequences be damned.

First, there’s Kevin O’Brien at Royals Reporter:

This just doesn’t feel right.

Losing games to a global pandemic? Okay, that’s something to be understood.

Losing games because owners want to squeeze out a buck in the short term?

Well…let’s just say I’m not the only Royals fan that feels frustrated and nearly done with Major League Baseball.

Next, David Lesky?

The owners are burning the house down and they were looking for anyone to blame. But over the weekend, they were holding the gas can and the lighter fluid and the structure behind them was imploding...

There is no doubt about this to me. It’s always been about crushing the MLBPA, not just getting a deal done. And they wanted to win the PR battle in the process. I don’t know if they actually want to make the MLBPA a union like the NFL or NBA where, sure they have labor peace, but basically everything is just dictated from the top. It might just be that they want a massive win.

Craig Brown gets the last word.

The owners did this. They locked out the players. They could lift the lockout and open camps at any time. If they were trustworthy sorts, the players would negotiate while the games are happening. The threat of a strike by the players would be present, certainly. But I’ve always felt that was a last resort sort of thing. You know, after some negotiations in not so good faith. So here we are. We didn’t need to be here, but the owners are clearly pleased. Commissioner Rob Manfred certainly is...

This was the owner’s playbook from all along. Lockout the players under the ridiculous guise that it will hasten negotiations. Sit idly for the better part of three months, barely moving on any kind of bargaining point, then at the eleventh hour, start to make some moves while pushing some things that weren’t even on the negotiating table. The hope was the MLBPA would panic that they were up against a deadline and once again submit to a deal that wasn’t in their best interests. Is this really good-faith negotiating?

This sucks. This is 2 weeks in a row without a Friday Song of the Day. I’d love to be talking about Pokemon Violet and Scarlet or Elden Ring or something. Instead, we’re dealing with baseball, once again, shooting itself in the foot.