The Columbus Dispatch

Manfred, Clark disagreeme­nts point to long MLB lockout

- Stephen Hawkins and Ronald Blum

ARLINGTON, Texas – Hours into Major League Baseball’s first work stoppage in 26 years, Commission­er Rob Manfred and union head Tony Clark presented diametrica­lly opposed views of each side’s negotiatin­g positions that point to a lengthy lockout.

In separate news conference­s less than half a day into baseball’s ninth work stoppage, Manfred said the union’s proposal for greater free agency and wider salary arbitratio­n would damage small-market teams.

Clark, the first former player to head the union, accused Manfred of “misreprese­ntations” in his letter to fans explaining the lockout, and said “it would have been beneficial to the process to have spent as much time negotiatin­g in the room as it appeared it was spent on the letter.”

“It's unnecessar­y to continue the dialogue,” Clark said of the lockout. “At the first instance in some time of a bumpy water, the recourse was a strategic decision to lock players out.”

In many ways, after 261/2 years of labor peace the sides have reverted to the bitter squabbling that marked eight work stoppages from 1972-95, including a 7 1/2-month strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series.

Owners locked out players at 12:01 a.m. Thursday following the expiration of the sport's five-year collective bargaining agreement.

“If you play without an agreement, you are vulnerable to a strike at any point in time,” Manfred said. “What happened in 1994 is the MLBPA picked August, when we were most vulnerable because of the proximity of the large revenue dollars associated with the postseason. We wanted to take that option away and try to force the parties to deal with the issues and get an agreement now.”

Players gained salary arbitratio­n in 1974 and free agency two years later, and most of the previous disputes centered on the rise of big salaries caused by both, along with demands, mostly by small- and middle-market owners, to control costs and increase their competitiv­e ability.

Management gained an ever-increasing series of restraints over the last two decades, such as a luxury tax on high payrolls, leading to a decrease in average salary during the latter years of the most recent labor deal.

Now players want more liberalize­d free agency and arbitratio­n, leading to a confrontat­ion.

“It's a whole list of topics that they've told us they will not negotiate,” said Bruce Meyer, the players' chief lawyer. “They will not agree, for example, to expand salary arb eligibilit­y. They will not agree to any path for any player to achieve free agency earlier. They will not agree to anything that would allow players to have additional ways to get service time to combat service-time manipulati­on. They told us on all of those things they will not agree.”

Since 1976, players can become free agents after six seasons of major league service.

The players' associatio­n proposed starting with the 2023-24 offseason that it changes to six years or five years and age 30.5, with the age in the second option dropping to 29.5 starting in 2025-26.

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