MLB: What Rob Manfred should say in his media address

DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 12: Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks during a press conference announcing a partnership with the Players Alliance during the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Coors Field on July 12, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - JULY 12: Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. speaks during a press conference announcing a partnership with the Players Alliance during the Gatorade All-Star Workout Day at Coors Field on July 12, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred will speak to the media this Thursday and this is what he should say in his address.

In what passes for news during the MLB lockout, commissioner Rob Manfred will finally break his silence and speak publicly to the media Thursday, February 10.

We all feel reasonably confident we know what he’s going to say. There’s zero debate on that, and, unfortunately, there’s pretty much zero debate that whatever he does say will feel insufficient, inflammatory, and incompetent.

The thing is though … he hasn’t said it yet.

So why not join me on a flight of fancy, to a perfect world where the MLB commissioner serves as a rallying point for progress in the many issues facing baseball today? Again, we all feel we know what Rob Manfred is going to say. But what if he said something different? Something substantive and profound? Something like this:

Dear friends. 

To the members of the media, thanks for coming out today. To the fans watching or reading at home, thanks for tuning in. That being said, we all know today shouldn’t be about me at all. 

No, what should be happening today is that pitchers and catchers are reporting. We should be on the doorstep of perhaps the most magical part of the MLB season: spring training. When every fan can have cause to hope that this year, finally, is THE year. 

Unfortunately, that is not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about the MLB lockout, and the fact that since the start of December, players who earn well more than the average American household in a full season have been engaged in a labor dispute with owners who spend more in a year than most households will earn in two lifetimes. That is true. But it is equally true that much of the blame must fall on me, and that I never should have allowed relations to deteriorate this far. 

Particularly since the business of baseball, of MLB as a cash-generating enterprise, has never been stronger. Player salaries have fallen every year since the last CBA was signed, all while untold riches flooded the coffers of their employers. What technical raises did transpire since then barely even accounted for inflation. I would ask the fans to consider how that would feel at your place of business. It is not right, and must end. As of right now, MLB completely agrees to the MLBPA’s requested 25 percent raise in minimum salary. You have earned it.  

Secondly, MLB would like to recognize that the financial challenges of baseball’s youngest players extend much further than the MLB minimum wage. So even though it has not been a concern of the MLBPA or the league to this point during negotiations, ownership would like to announce that minor league salaries at all levels will receive the same 25 percent raise.

I say, ownership would LIKE to do so. However, I told them that was laughably inadequate given the standard of living faced by players across the minor leagues. As such, I have prevailed upon ownership to announce today that minor league salaries at all levels will be DOUBLED. They have certainly earned it. Additionally, MLB recognizes that the road to the Majors is hard, and that recent realignment has made obtainment of that dream even more difficult. Consequently, in addition to raising salaries, the league will offer tuition assistance to all minor leaguers who wish to take college courses while pursuing their dream, just in case that dream does not come to pass.  

As for the issue of service time and the path to free agency, ownership admits they have not always acted in the best interest of the player. That is why they are willing to reduce the time it takes to reach free agency from six years to five. However, that is far as we can go on that score. 

For not all teams have equal resources, and as many players have voiced an interest in winning, what winning looks like for much of the league is doing so with a mix of highly paid veterans and less highly paid — but still well compensated — younger players. However, the strategy of tanking for a higher draft pick has disrupted the competitive integrity of baseball, even it did allow new teams to become regular contenders. Which is why MLB will be instituting a draft lottery for the top five selections. 

One last point on service time and free agency. The aforementioned proposals should be more than adequate for the vast majority of MLBPA members. However, new stars emerge all the time, and fans deserve to see those stars. Which is why clubs that do roster a Top 5 finalist for Rookie of the Year will receive an additional first-round selection in the competitive balance round. The clubs that roster the two respective winners will pick sixth and seventh overall, after the lottery teams, with WAR serving as the tiebreaker between the AL and NL Rookie winner. The league is also willing to set aside a pre-arbitration bonus pool in the amount of $50 million for the top 20 performers in WAR and end-of-season award winners. 

In all cases, save the minimum wage, this is less than the MLBPA is asking for. In all cases, it is more than ownership wanted. This is the limit to what ownership can offer, as any more radical changes WOULD disrupt competitive balance and the ability for all 30 clubs to operate at standard they can be comfortable with. 

Lastly, the 2022 season will be my last as MLB commissioner. I entered this job with the intention of leaving the game better than I found it. If the MLBPA sees fit to accept this proposal, I can convince myself that I have done just that. If they do not, and this lockout continues, I will have to conclude that my tenure as commissioner has achieved the exact opposite result.   

Thank you for your time, and I hope to see you, as scheduled, on Opening Day.

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If only, right? Hope does spring eternal in spring for baseball, so I’ll wait until Thursday’s address to despair. But I won’t hold my breath either.