Cactus League flare-up is baseball’s latest labor battle

Rading the survey of 23 player agents conducted by The Athletic, I was first struck at how comprehensively the responses covered the spectrum of Tony La Russa’s return to the dugout. The field broke down into 11 predictions of success, 10 predictions of failure, and two wouldn’t hazard a guess.

For the success column, the White Sox will be good regardless of the manager, and perhaps La Russa’s autonomy will enable some pleasing strategical and stylistic differences to emerge. As for the failures:

*“There’s not just a disconnect with the players, but a disconnect with the philosophy of the front office. The only one he’s on the same page with is Jerry.”

*“We are going to see socially aware players like Tim Anderson (and) this incredible, diverse front office and you have the largest display of white privilege in the world (as manager). It’s a nightmare waiting to happen.”

*“It’s going to be a shitshow.”

That’s basically captured the La Russa landscape prior to the DUI charge and reckless driving conviction. The lack of a straightforward organizational hierarchy is the biggest danger to me, because warring loyalties caused the Ozzie Guillen era to collapse into a pile of rubble 10 years ago, and one could argue that the White Sox still can’t claim full recovery. Perhaps you remember the flow chart from 2011.

But the bigger topic the survey addresses is the state of labor. A majority of the agents thinks the game can avoid a labor stoppage (14-8), but not because of any encouraging developments. The salary structure still needs massive revision, and the MLBPA is still taking a defensive stance with Bruce Meyer. It’s more that with two pandemic-altered seasons, neither side stands to benefit from a third compromised year.

But the proceedings aren’t quite gliding along in the meantime. The MLBPA rejected MLB’s proposal trading an expanded postseason for universal DH without a counterproposal. The Cactus League asked MLB to delay spring training due to Maricopa County’s infection rate, but the MLBPA suggested the league was behind it as an attempt to delay the season. Whatever the motive, the players still know they hold the upper hand and stated so, and the Cactus League had no other response but to say it’d be ready for host games on schedule.

Ken Rosenthal suggested a compromise — a delayed spring training, followed by a condensed 154-game season that still ends the postseason in a manner that pleases TV partners. That’s all well and good, but “compromise” seems to be in the vocabulary of neither side.

Regarding the general air of intransigence, one part of Rosenthal’s notebook jumped out to me:

In addition to adopting the universal DH, the league offered to resolve two service-time grievances from last season in the union’s favor.

We’ve talked about service-time manipulation plenty around these parts. My stance is that teams shouldn’t be encouraged to deal in bad faith just because they aren’t punished for doing so. The response for fans who are more concerned about the seventh year of team control than rewarding players on time is generally along the lines of, “Well, I guess the union should’ve negotiated better.”

Here’s a case where the MLBPA holds the upper hand. Major League Baseball has to play 162 games unless it’s impossible due to government orders, and the concurrence of other pro sports leagues renders such a claim null and void for the foreseeable future. It might make decent big-picture business sense for the union to make a concession like Rosenthal proposes. It’s a better idea for their public health responsibilities, it buys the league a little more time to put fans in the stands, and the money not made is a fraction of what both sides previously endured.

But after years of MLB wielding its negotiated gains without remorse, it’s not fair to expect the union to play nice when it finally holds a key card. Dealing in bad faith inspires no faith at best, so here we are.

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I’m just glad La Russa’s autonomy won’t result in stylistical differences, or some other dubious strategery.

I’m sorry.

Last edited 3 years ago by tommytwonines

Evidently, indoor hockey with fans = safe.


Ice neutralizes the virus. Zambonis make a difference, too.


This seems like a false equivalency to me. MLB Spring Training involves the influx of so many more people (15 teams worth of active roster players, 40-man roster players, prospects, other non-roster invitees, coaches, trainers, technicians, reporters, broadcasters, fans, some family members of the foregoings) coming from a variety of states and countries near and far, for several weeks, into a relatively small geographic area. Sure indoor activities should have less of a risk factor in general than outdoor ones, but everything else about Spring Training seems much more impactful than an occasional hockey game.


I would make a joke about how anyone who pays money to see the Coyotes is doomed, but as a fan of Chicago’s hockey team, I am throwing a puck within a glass house.


Turns out those Arizona officials sent the letter at the behest of MLB. From The Athletic:

A representative for Major League Baseball encouraged members of the Cactus League to write a letter to commissioner Rob Manfred voicing a desire to delay the start of spring training, according to people with direct knowledge of a Jan. 13 meeting conducted via Zoom….

“Basically, the position that the league stated on the call was that they were open to delaying and that the players were not,” one source said. “And that a document like the letter may help push negotiations along and allow what you guys would like, which is a 30-day delay.”

“The representative was very direct,” another source added. “They believe it is time to push off spring training for a month, but they’re having problems with the players because a change would be necessary to the CBA for that to happen. He supported a letter to put pressure on players to push back spring training, a full month.”

“I felt it was made explicitly clear that the owners are supportive of this,” this source added. “And that they would like a delay of the season.”


I’m sort of amused by Manfred’s incompetence. He didn’t realize beforehand that would leak out? He doesn’t appear to have much foresight.

Greg Nix

Manfred maneuvers labor negotiations like Sideshow Bob maneuvers rakes.

LuBob DuRob

One small victory today: Buehrle stays on the ballot

Just John

…and another potential Twin upgrade instead chooses Team North America


But now the Twins have signed Simmons 🙁


Big run on middle infielders yesterday between LaStella, Semien, Simmons and Galvis. Didi is the last man standing


That Buehrle got 44 votes means he has more national writers supporting him than I would have guessed. Now I won’t be surprised if he stays on the ballot for several years.