FORT MYERS, Fla. — On Tuesday, Apple announced it made a deal with Major League Baseball to stream two games on Friday nights over the course of the season on Apple TV+. Reports had the deal being worth $85 million annually over seven years.
On Wednesday, commissioner Rob Manfred canceled two more series after the owners again failed to agree to a new collective bargaining with the Players Association.
The 93 games canceled included the first Red Sox-Yankees series of the season in New York April 7-10.
We’re all seeing the disconnect here, right? More money pours into baseball one day and a day later the owners and players still can’t decide how to divide it up fairly.
Now Opening Day will be no sooner than April 14 and it’s hard to believe that will be the case given how poorly this negotiation has been handled.
The sides worked deep into the night on Tuesday and came close to agreeing on the core economic issues that have caused the stalemate only to have the owners dig in on wanting an international amateur draft.
The union has long viewed the international draft as a non-starter in CBA talks over the years, turning it down time after time including in this round of talks.
Roughly 33 percent of big leaguers hail from Latin American countries and they see an international draft as a tool to cut bonus payments to prospects.
Frustrating as it may be to have what seemed to be fruitful talks break down again for the second time in a week, the union wasn’t throwing a third of its membership under the bus.
To be certain, how players are scouted and signed in places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela is a dirty business. It’s known that some teams cut deals with players as young as 13 or 14 and hide them away until they’re eligible to sign at 16.
Players are often forced to kick back a percentage of their bonuses to shadowy “trainers” or even to the scout who signed them.
If MLB and the Players Association had a functional relationship, they would work together to fix this over time with Hall of Famers like David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez using their influence to help build a better system for everybody.
But the players don’t trust Manfred and didn’t want new rules pushed through at the last minute.
That the owners chose the international draft where to make a stand suggests they didn’t like the deal that was coming together over the last few days. They had to know the union would balk and it did.
Now time has run out for a 162-game season unless you push the World Series into the second week of November. But the union will still push for the players to get paid for a full season and get a full year of service time, adding another obstacle to making a deal.
MLB also announced that spring training games will start no earlier than March 18, essentially wiping out that schedule and further punishing the people who work in and around ballparks in Arizona and Florida and count on those games to earn a living.
This will eventually end. A deal will be struck and there will be a season. It’ll be a mess sorting everything out to get to Opening Day but that will get done.
But nobody will win. Baseball has already lost by letting this process drag on for nearly 100 days, further driving away fans who are increasingly annoyed by the game’s slow pace and lack of action.
They could have come to an agreement in January that included provisions to improve how the game is played. But stubborn posturing prevented that.
The phony deadlines, competing statements and blame-gaming since has been embarrassing.
In 2020, the league and the union fought while the rest of us endured a deadly pandemic. In 2022, they’re squabbling as a war in Ukraine dominates the news.
There comes a time to put differences aside and make a deal. But they missed that deadline, too. The hubris could fill a ballpark.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.