MLB: What Fans Should Make Of Rob Manfred’s Comments

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 10: Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions during an MLB owner's meeting at the Waldorf Astoria on February 10, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Manfred addressed the ongoing lockout of players, which owners put in place after the league's collective bargaining agreement ended on December 1, 2021. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 10: Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions during an MLB owner's meeting at the Waldorf Astoria on February 10, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Manfred addressed the ongoing lockout of players, which owners put in place after the league's collective bargaining agreement ended on December 1, 2021. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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While not a whole lot of specifics were given Thursday, there’s still plenty for fans to takeaway from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s comments.

No, the MLB lockout has not yet come to an end.

At the end of the day, that’s obviously the most important takeaway from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s Thursday morning media address. Unfortunately, it was nothing close to the movie magic moment hoped for when I penned this hypothetical speech that Manfred should have delivered. On the upside, it did not officially delay spring training and the start of the MLB regular season either. Which, admittedly….is something, even if there was really nothing of substance actually said during the entire press conference. Beyond the news that sides have agreed to a universal DH at any rate, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

However, even if the session was a little thin on the substance, that didn’t prevent some reading between the lines. There were takeaways to be had, beyond the lockout continuing and an official delay of anything not happening yet. What follows are the biggest ones I think are reasonable for fans to walk away with, and just some key observations for fans that aren’t interested in sitting through the entire talk.

Very Soft On Financial Specifics 

Manfred opened his remarks on the labor dispute by observing that everything about the offers made by MLB to the MLBPA were better than the terms of the expired CBA. Which is great I suppose, except for one tiny loophole: raising salaries by $1 and promising high performing rookies a membership in a Fruit of the Month club would technically clear the bar Manfred set with that statement.

Obviously, the presented terms have been better than that. But just as obviously, they haven’t been better enough to move the needle for the MLBPA. When asked specifically about Saturday’s forthcoming offer, and the financial increase, there was obfuscation there as well. The question intended to probe how much more money had been added to minimum salary, or to the pre-arbitration bonus pool. The answer just made sure to note that the total amount of new money was over $100 million- which seems impressive, until you do something as simple as divide by the total number of MLB players. Lots of ways for that amount to still actually be way less than anything the players have asked for to this point.

That Being Said…Something Has Changed 

While it is clear that there is still a wide gap between MLB and the MLBPA, Manfred did seem to go out of his way to indicate that Saturday’s proposal moves closer to player demands. Which leaves one of two possibilities. Either a massive shift in the favor of labor on one front, or incremental shifts on multiple issues.

Personally, I was expecting the later, and was not proven wrong by Saturday’s news: minor tweaks across the board- nothing seismic. Still, between the language used to describe the proposal and the absence of any kind of official spring training delay on Thursday, it seems reasonable to assume that at least the league thought this offer was going to be well received. In fact, Manfred was asked precisely this question during the Q&A portion. The answer didn’t inspire images of players booking tickets to Florida and Arizona Sunday morning, but it didn’t sound hopeless either.

The League Is Willing To Miss Games, And Time Is Short 

However, if the the MLBPA doesn’t accept this weekend’s offer, things could go sideways in a hurry.

Near the end of the address, Manfred was asked if there was a point where the cost of games lost would outweigh the cost of caving to player demands. Now, as the head of one side of a labor dispute, obviously he wasn’t going to give a precise answer here or anything. Yet he did say earlier on in the press conference that any games lost would be devastating for the sport…only to close with a much quicker, and more glib observation that the answer to that would depend entirely on how many games you were talking.

Tonally, it was that second comment that rang more true to me, whereas the first one sounded more like fanservice to appease unruly masses. Meaning that missing some games is a tolerable outcome to ownership. Time is also short to get a deal done, as Manfred himself acknowledged the need for about a five week timeline to keep things on track for Opening Day as scheduled. A little under a week to travel, and four weeks for spring training. That essentially sets President’s Day, February 21st, as the deadline- call it February 22nd to account for taking the holiday off.

What Manfred Should Have Said. dark. Next

So there it is- 2/22/22 or bust for MLB, and this weekend will be the clearest bellweather yet for if we are to have a season that start’s on time.