Outside Help Could Be Best Bet For Ending Baseball Lockout

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Beleaguered baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is at odds with the MLB Players Association.Arturo Pardavila III, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

By Dan Schlossberg

The public be damned: the owners and players hate each other more than the Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

When the two sides met at the Four Seasons in Dallas, ostensibly for lunch, they parted company after seven minutes — not only unable to agree on what to order but unwilling to tolerate each other’s company.

The result, predictable on the date the last Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed five years ago, was the first baseball work stoppage in 27 years.

Though no lockout has lasted much longer than a month, this one could be a record-breaker.

The owners, understandably, are fed up with players they consider overpaid, over-pampered, and often under-performing.

The players, emboldened by militant negotiators hired since the last CBA, are willing to sign nine-figure contracts but unwilling to compromise for the good of the game.

Issues include free agency and arbitration — players want to qualify for both sooner — plus expanded playoffs — owners want 14 of the 30 teams included in the postseason tournament because it would reap more television and advertising revenue.

There are a few areas of agreement, including the universal designated hitter, but not enough to keep both sides in the same room without verbal fisticuffs.

Players want owners to dump the luxury tax and drop demands for an international draft, while owners want players to promote their product better — and thus sell more tickets and attract more advertisers. Nike logos already appear on jerseys and other sponsored emblems may follow, emulating trends in Japan, Korea, and other leagues.

Both sides are digging in, like a dog determined to extend its walk, but deadlines are looming. The Winter Meetings are the first casualty but reporting dates for pitchers and catchers could be next.

Baseball usually begins its spring around Valentine’s Day but there won’t be much love between the parties if the lockout continues. Teams need ticket and merchandise sales from spring training, which includes some 30 exhibition games, and players need time to get round into shape for the regular season.

Or will that bite the bullet too?

The 232-day player strike of 1994-95 not only wiped out the postseason but cut into spring training and the April schedule the following year.

After losing games to cancellation — and the labor-management argument over when or if to start the 2020 campaign — Major League Baseball cannot afford a delay based entirely around greed. On both sides.

The game would be best served if each of the warring parties would add an advisory panel of fans whose only objective would be to get an agreement hammered out.

That shouldn’t be too much to ask of Rob Manfred and Tony Clark, who don’t trust each other and shouldn’t be entrusted with preserving the integrity of the game.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ couldn’t care less about any other sport and is furious that the players and owners can’t decide how to divide billions in profits. The author of 39 baseball books, he covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Ball Nine. He’s at ballauthor@gmail.com.

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