Chicago Cubs: How can MLB deal with a CBA if it can’t solve one season?

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images) /

A quarter-century of peace between MLB and the players is clearly at risk.

There has been peace between baseball’s owners and the MLBPA for the last quarter-century.  That is remarkable given there were eight work stoppages the previous 22 years between 1972 and 1994.  However, that hard-won peace is fraying fast.

There are two approaches to the role of MLB Commissioner.  In the Bud Selig approach, MLB is a neutral arbiter between the owners and the MLPBA.  In this approach, peace is kept, revenue increases, fans, mostly, are happy, or at least not fuming mad.

Then there’s the Ueberroth approach.  Many Cubs fans probably don’t remember Peter Ueberroth when he was MLB Commissioner, but let’s just say “neutral arbiter” wasn’t his game.

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He was an owners’ commissioner.  He scolded owners for rampant spending on free agents.  Then, in a move that ended up forcing owners to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to players, he convinced the owners to collude against free agents in the mid-1980s.  Chicago Cubs fan favorite Andre Dawson, among others, were victimized by this scandal.

Selig, who was hired after Commissioner Fay Vincent was fired, was thought to be an “owners’ Commissioner.”  But he understood the havoc wrought upon the game by the 1994 strike and vowed never again.  And where was our good friend Rob Manfred in 1994?  He was outside counsel to the owners.  Is the picture getting clearer?

Today the owners and the MLBPA stand in their respective distrusting corners.  MLB (acting on behalf of the owners) has just issued their fifth proposal, none of them even remotely acceptable to players and frankly intended to be that way.

We need a Selig approach more than ever. The nation is struggling economically from the pandemic and there is social unrest and protesting across the map.  And yet here are the two sides, owners and players, sitting there arguing over, basically, how many games they should play.

What is Rob Manfred and MLB doing? Stoking the fire.  Great job there, Mister Commissioner.  So, MLB can’t, or won’t work out a solution and instead takes sides in a disagreement over something as slight as this, when baseball is more in demand than ever.  How are Manfred and MLB going to handle the diverse and complicated issues of a CBA negotiation after the 2021 season?

Maybe 2020 will help Manfred recognize the huge gulf between the owners and players. Maybe it will reveal to him the absolute lack of trust between the two sides.  But it won’t.  It won’t because he’s on the owners’ side helping expand that gulf of mistrust.

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So, if there is no baseball this season and the owners lock out the players or the players strike after the CBA expires in December 2021, know who is to blame.  It’ll be on Manfred’s head.