In a week defined by long, ultimately fruitless meetings, Thursday’s 1 p.m. negotiation session between Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association was over by 5:00 p.m. By all accounts, it was yet another day of little to no progress, and things ended earlier than usual because both sides felt like they had reached a dead end, per ESPN reports.
There was a newcomer at the table as Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner made his first appearance at Roger Dean Stadium, the spring training home of the Marlins and Cardinals where each of this week’s daily meetings have taken place. The group of active players in attendance increased as well, with reports stating that Astros’ pitcher Lance McCullers and Marlins’ infielder Miguel Rojas joined the fun on Thursday. Mets’ starter Max Scherzer has been the most prominent player at the meetings, as well as Gerrit Cole, Fransico Lindor, Andrew Miller, Paul Goldschmidt and Jameson Taillon, among others.
Steinbrenner was part of a bargaining session with Dick Monfort and Ron Fowler — owners of the Rockies and Padres, respectively — plus deputy commissioner Dan Halem. Much like they’ve done all week, the players’ side met in the stadium’s parking lot before heading into the stadium for the real thing. Per the Associated Press, Players Association executive director Tony Clark and chief negotiator Bruce Meyer headed the parking lot brigade.
The first meeting between the league and the players ended after roughly an hour and 45 minutes, according to a report from The Athletic. After an intermission, and both sides meeting on their own in separate caucuses, Halem and MLB senior vice president Patrick Houlihan spent about half an hour with the players’ contingent.
Service time manipulation — or the practice of teams purposefully keeping players in the minor league past a certain date so they can gain an extra year of club control over them — seems to have been the topic du jour. The new service time manipulation proposal from the players was, reportedly, a concession on their part. Previous ideas that they offered would have granted somewhere in the neighborhood of 29 players a full year of service time, thus getting them a year closer to the big payments that come in free agency. Thursday’s proposal had them coming down to 20 players.
The players also are pushing for the creation of a lottery that would determine the first seven picks of the draft. They’ve altered other elements of their plans to reform tanking, though. A Washington Post reporter tweeted that chief among those alterations was a reduction in their originally-proposed penalties for small market teams that are just simply getting beat a lot rather than actively trying to lose.
From the outside, it seems as though the players and the league went into each day of meetings this week with a specific topic on their mind. On Monday, it was the pool of money that would get divided up between pre-arbitration eligible players. On Wednesday, it was an argument over what the minimum player salary should be. That midweek meeting also gave us the harrowing news that MLB is fully prepared to cancel games (which would not be made up or provide any salary for the players) if no deal is reached by Feb. 28.
All Thursday did was introduce new topics but get us no closer to meeting that deadline. The league and the players will meet again on Friday, bringing what we can only hope is not a fifth straight day of spinning their wheels in the mud.