While baseball’s current labor deal is in effect until 2026, it seems that early negotiations have started in 2023. The fight for position in the paint has begun. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred formed a new Economic Reform Committee. With the explosion of high salaries this offseason led by free agent and player splurges by the New York Mets and San Diego Padres, along with the collapse of regional sports networks, ownership’s first order of business is finding ways to implement a salary cap to try and depress player salaries.
Regional Network Fizzle
According to reports, the 19 Sinclair-owned Bally Sports RSNs are on the verge of bankruptcy, and Warner Bros/Discovery-owned AT&TT -0.6% RSNs shorted payments to the Astros, Rockies, and Pirates.
According to Forbes, “Major League Baseball has seen attendance decline nine straight seasons and was down nearly 6% in 2022 compared to 2019, the last season before the pandemic. Before the media rights explosion, the gate was the league’s largest revenue generator. As media rights became a huge cash cow, less strain was placed on attendance numbers.”
Baseball deals for superstars have reached the $300M mark and are only getting higher. San Diego just blessed Manny Machado with an 11-year $350M lifetime deal. Of course, if the market didn’t allow it then players wouldn’t be able to make that kind of money, but the owners are pulling in a grip so free enterprise is only right. However, the owners are getting less willing to share the pie and are prepared to play hardball when the next collective bargaining negotiations arise.
MLBbro Tony Clark is ready to stop any movements by the league that hints at a salary cap situation. Last weekend Mr. Clark spoke to the media from the union’s Arizona satellite office to say that despite the committee’s efforts being “focused in on how best to depress players’ salaries” he is prepared for a fight all the way up to the 2026 expiration date of the labor deal.
MLBPA Executive Director, Tony Clark, is adamant that the union will never agree to a salary cap.
Read more of what he has to say on the matter here ⬇️
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) February 28, 2023
Tony Clark’s Executive Legacy Tied To Labor Negotiations
This is the time that our highest MLBbro executive can stamp his name in the history of the game. MLB is the only North American sport without a version of a salary cap or a financial plan to budget player salaries. The players union and MLB have gone back and forth over this philosophical difference for decades which caused a work stoppage in 1994, eliminating the World Series and prematurely ending the season for a gang of players who were chasing records that year.
All eyes will be on Tony Clark for the next couple of years. The 2016 negotiations did not go as well as the players would have liked, and it led to the decline of players’ salaries by 6.4 percent from 2017 to 2021 for the first time since 1960. This led to criticism for Clark and the rest of the union leadership.
MLB Players Took Raw Deal In 2016?
After the 2016 deal was done, Clark made adjustments by adding a labor lawyer with experience named Bruce Meyer for future negotiations. Now that Meyer has climbed the ladder to deputy executive director of the union, our MLBbro will have a strategy laid out not only for the MLB players, but the minor league players as well.
Clark Against Cutting Minor League Rosters, Salaries
Over 5,500 minor league players formed their own union in September to increase their annual salaries that bottomed out at $10,400. Clark started their negotiations for the first minor league agreement in November. While MLB has proposed ways to contract the minor leagues in exchange for improvements, Clark considers the league’s proposal to reduce the overall roster from 180 to 165 on its four minor league affiliates along with the Arizona and Florida complexes a “nonstarter”.
“The idea,” Clark said, “of the league having the ability to cut minor league jobs and/or contracting teams further on the heels of the 40-plus teams that were contracted a couple of years ago is troublesome.”
Clark is on record stating that he is encouraged with the early part of negotiations citing hope that MLB and the union can hammer out an agreement for the minor leagues in possibly two or three weeks. However, if no deal is made by Opening Day, the season will start under the current economic structure.
As for the majors, with a deal locked in until 2026, that doesn’t mean that Tony Clark will not be prepared for negotiations.
Tony Clark just told reporters: "We're never going to agree to a cap." Spring training headlines have been full of owners bemoaning economic disparity. We are (checks notes) four years away from the next CBA negotiations. If you stay ready you don't have to get ready, amirite.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) February 25, 2023
Clark Brings MLB Into NIL Age
Clark has spent much of his time as an MLBbro executive advocating and pioneering for the financial advancement of MLB players. In 2019, the baseball union formed a collaboration with the NFL players to create an organization called the One Team Partners. One Team Partners works to help players capitalize on their name, image and likeness. This business deal alone has raised hundreds of millions for the union’s cache. The success has attracted unions from other sports such as Major League Soccer, the WNBA and the US Women’s National Soccer Team.
Having just avoided disaster by settling a 99-day lockout before the regular season in 2022, Clark will be loading up and prepared for the next labor negotiations, which are sure to be contentious and a nightmare for fans.