May 18, 2022

Last 15-minute meeting yields little progress, expanded playoff format may be set (or not)

The sixth meeting between representatives of Major League Baseball and the players’ union lasted 15 minutes, during which it appears the two sides merely greeted each other. There was, however, an additional 20-minute meeting between chief negotiators Dan Halem (MLB) and Bruce Meyer (MLBPA), so maybe that’s a good sign.

At the heart of Thursday’s brief summit was the bonus pool for pre-arbitration players, which the union proposed to increase after previously reducing their demands. The latest offer is for a pool of $115 million, which seems to be going in the wrong direction until you realize it’s tied to what would be a bigger group of players.

As Evan Drellich and others explained after the meeting, the union changed its stance on arbitration eligibility, putting more players in line for the bonus pool. Although the system is not the same, it is akin to Super 2 designations in the past. The only problem is that the union wants 80% of players – compared to 100% in previous bids – with more than two years of service to be Super 2 and the league has said it will not exceed the current 22% mark.

The players proposed that the pre-arbitration bonus pool should now be $115 million (considering their proposal now having fewer players going to arbitration). The previous proposal was for $100 million. The pool would now be distributed to 150 players instead of 30.

This is one of the two big remaining topics, with the competitive equilibrium tax threshold and penalties topping the list. As with the dual nature of the minimum wage/bonus pool issue, CBT will come down to both the level set and the penalties imposed for exceeding it.

There were agreements on other important issues, like DH approval for both leagues and the removal of draft pick compensation for signing free agents. Both of these are wins for players, though neither is as big as what we just covered. Another hot spot is the playoff expansion, which both teams previously favored.

While adding more teams to the playoffs gives players a chance to make more money, the league collects a disproportionate percentage of the broadcast rights take. That said, there may – important emphasis – be an agreement in place to implement a funky format that will see seven teams from each league in the playoffs. So you have three division winners and four wild cards, in case that’s not clear.

According to Craig Carton of WFAN in New York, whose credibility I can’t speak to, the team with the best record in each league will get a bye to the division series and the best remaining division winner will choose their opponent from among the wild cards. Then the winner of the third division will choose their opponent and the last two teams will face each other. My guess is that the division winning series will face each other then while the wild card series will face the No. 1 seed.

MLB playoff format is set, fans will love it – 7 playoff teams per league – Team with best record is goodbye and goes to Div series – Top remaining division winner chooses their opponent among the 4 wildcard teams and plays the best of three all home matches – Then the winner of the 3rd Div does the same

Maybe there are people out there who really dig this, but it just feels contrived to me. I think the biggest issue I have is with the idea of ​​picking opponents, which sounds like something designed purely for creating bulletin board material. Wait, I’m told it’s about producing what’s known in the industry as drama.

It turns out there’s probably no such deal on a playoff format, as MLBPA communications director Chris Dahl tweeted Thursday. Given the importance of playoff revenue to the league, format changes are an important bargaining chip for the union. That said, it’s quite likely that we’ll see a change from what was in place with just two wild cards.

The league must now set up a counter and organize the next meeting, which better come soon. MLB had set a deadline of Feb. 28 so they could start the season on time and there is only a week and a half left. It may finally be time for landlords to bid in good faith.

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