Following the strike of 1972 in which actual baseball games were lost on account of a labor stoppage for the first time in modern baseball history, the players and owners were at it again. Only this time, no games are lost. (As an aside, apart from the players and owners (and baseball dorks like myself), does anyone really care about a sports labor dispute if no games are lost? Doubtful.) The uncertainty created by Ted Simmons when he refused to sign a contract and threatened to take his salary to an arbitrator after the season for an ex post valuation of his worth surely led to some uneasy owners, who likely decided they wanted to set out some ground rules regarding salary arbitration. As an owner, it would be a scary proposition for a player to have a breakout season and then have an arbitrator decide what the player was worth after the season. This outcome would lead a club to have potentially mass amounts of payroll uncertainty if a player(s) salary was not decided until after the season. While it might seem like a good way to incentivize the player, a club needs to have a ballpark of its payroll in order to decide how much revenue it needs to bring in to cover player expenses.
How long it lasted:
February 8-25. Zero games lost due to stoppage. However, the start of spring training is pushed back. On the bright side, the delay in spring training saves countless players lives due to less time encountering blue-hairs on the roadways in Florida.
1. Salary Arbitration: The owners and players needed to get on the same page regarding salary arbitration.
1. Players and owners agree to binding salary arbitration as a part of a 3-year CBA to decide a player’s worth whereby a neutral arbitrator decides between the player’s offer and the team’s offer. Different from traditional arbitration where an arbitrator may reach any presumably equitable result, “baseball arbitration” only permits the arbitrator to pick a side. (Example – The Rays offer B.J. Upton $3MM and B.J. Upton’s agent proposes a salary of $3.3MM, the arbitrator may only pick one of the proposals and can not split the difference.) Allowing salary arbitration ultimately cost the owners because players will earn higher salaries in the years prior to free agency. However, players with production well over the arbitrated salary amount still make less than they would in free agency or in a freely negotiated contract. (See Howard, Ryan). A player’s requirements to reach arbitration (i.e. ‘Super Two’s and other matters) continues refinement to this day and will likely play a large role in the new CBA. More to come on this issue later.
493 days until the CBA expires….