The federal mediator said Wednesday he would be willing to help MLB and the Players’ Association reach an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It is unclear what role, if any, he will play in negotiations moving forward.
Major League Baseball looks to federal mediator to help end sport’s lockout, sources say. The MLB is reportedly looking for a federal mediator to help end the sport’s current lockout. Read more in detail here: mlb standings.
4:55 p.m. Eastern
ESPN’s Jeff Passan
- MLB insider on ESPN
- Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of Sports’ Most Valuable Commodity,” “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of Sports’ Most Valuable Commodity”
According to ESPN, Major League Baseball sought the urgent aid of a federal mediator to help settle the sport’s lockout on Thursday, possibly bringing in the presence of a neutral party to end the three-month-long strike.
According to reports, the league contacted the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a federal organization that tries to arbitrate labor conflicts. Mediation isn’t required, and the MLB Players Association would have to consent to a third-party mediator’s participation.
After failing to reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, MLB players were locked out on December 2. The two teams have met four times since then. After more than a quarter-century of labor peace, none of the meetings have yielded meaningful progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement.
Only the request for mediation was made, according to an MLB spokeswoman. The union did not respond to requests for comment.
Throughout the history of sports labor relations, mediation, a procedure in which an outside party intervenes during labor disputes, has been typical. Mediators’ roles are more about bridging communication gaps between parties and assisting in the discovery of common ground than they are about issuing mandates or implementing solutions. Mediators were utilized during the 1981 and 1994 MLBPA strikes, the latter of which did not result in a settlement.
Recent attempts at mediation in other sports have shown positive results. Scot Beckenbaugh, who remained the “master mediator” at FMCS after assisting in the resolution of the 2013 NHL lockout, was commended by union members and league executives for assisting in the creation of a road to an agreement. Beckenbaugh has helped to arbitrate the 2015 Major League Soccer strike and a few other recent issues between leagues and referees’ unions.
Mediation attempts in MLB had the opposite impact more than two decades ago. With his approach, mediator Bill Usery enraged players and was unable to rescue the 1994 World Series or achieve an agreement for the start of the 1995 season. At the time, union head and Hall of Famer Tom Glavine said: “We were prepared to compromise, as seen by our actions. Mr. Usery’s idea, on the other hand, was ridiculous in many ways. We’d be handing out items for which we’d previously gone on strike. Mr. Usery seemed stumped when asked about the meaning of most of his suggestion.” Don Fehr, the MLBPA’s director at the time, voiced similar dismay.
While the gap between the union and the league may not be as big as it was in 1994, the sides’ failure to reach an agreement has resulted in a near-certain delay of spring training, which was set to begin in the middle of the month. Some in the business, both on the league and player sides, believe that if no agreement is reached by the end of February, the March 31 opening day might be jeopardized.
The problems at hand are many, but almost all of them relate on the game’s underlying economics. Disgruntled by their average salaries dropping for four consecutive seasons, the players have stated that their top priorities are getting players paid at a younger age, removing artificial market restraints such as draft-pick penalties for signing free agents and draft-pick penalties for exceeding the luxury tax, fixing service-time manipulation, and dissuading tanking. The league has requested expanded playoffs and the maintenance of present laws controlling free agency, arbitration, and revenue sharing in order to keep player pay steady.
There have been several places where progress has been made. The league agreed to eliminate direct draft-pick compensation in exchange for the creation of a universal designated hitter. The union advocated expanding the playoffs to 12 teams, rather than the 14 sought by MLB, and permitting advertising patches on jerseys. Both parties are open to a draft lottery, with MLB suggesting that non-playoff clubs be eligible for the first three selections and the union countering that the system should include the top eight picks. MLB has agreed to study a $10 million bonus pool for non-arbitration qualified players. The union reacted with a $100 million offer on Tuesday, down $5 million from its previous offer.
The parties acknowledged that little progress had been achieved during the meeting, while sources claimed the union was expecting a counteroffer from the league before the end of the week. Instead, ahead of next week’s owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, MLB sought to enlist the help of a mediator, who, if the union accepts the league’s efforts, may achieve what neither side has been able to do in ten months of talks.
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