MLB Labor Unrest Unlikely

Maybe Major League Baseball is slowly learning. The suits and union are learning a lesson or two that is staring them directly in the face. With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire on December 11th, two significant issues that could have stalled the negotiations may have been settled.

FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that the hangups were centered around two issues: money spent on draft picks and changes made in the compensation for lost free agents. Rosenthal also stated that both sides “are motivated to reach an agreement before then (Dec. 11)”. We could expect some type of announcement as early as today (Monday).

A list of meetings are slated for this week. Beginning today, the union will be meeting with player agents. These will go on until Wednesday. The GMs will be gathering in Milwaukee starting tomorrow (Tuesday). The owners will commence meetings on Thursday, also in Milwaukee. This will be a busy week for baseball from a “behind the scenes” point of view.

Those lessons? Not too hard to find and see. All both sides have to do scan the current sports landscape to learn the lessons, from others and of their own.

Bargaining chips can be different, but there is always the one constant: the fans. Keeping that in mind, one question arises: Will the potential of lost time and/or games bring about a negative reaction from the fans?

Of course, you think of the current situation with the NBA. Games have been cancelled. Kris Humphries has gotten married…and in the process of a divorce (if you keep up on such fodder) since that lockout started. Main issued appeared to be that both sides wanting too big a piece of that money pie. Take a smaller piece and give the larger one to the “other side”. And unless you’re a die-hard NBA fan, you are unaffected by this loss of games and all other transaction associated with it.

Goes that way with all sports.

The NFL may be a bit of a different “example”. For the most part, the lockout did not adversely affect its product. I’m sure there may be a handful of people that have elected to not watch and/or attend games. The overall thirst football as the nation’s top professional league overrode some potential pratfalls.

It may have helped the NFL (subconsciously to me) when you see the center of the Indianapolis Colts and the owner of the New England Patriots exchanging pleasantries. Two bitter rivals letting go of that rivalry for the sake of the sport, for the sake of the game, and hopefully and more prominently, for the sake of the fans.

Make no mistake that the NFL is a different animal nowadays.

And what can MLB take away from the loss of a full season as was the case with the NHL? Too many things to list actually. One thing I always take away from that is the NHL was slowly building a larger fanbase. Expansion reached the state of Ohio and we have the Blue Jackets in Columbus. In hindsight, maybe the expansion was too aggressive, but that’s all I’ll say on that.

So, the NHL had a nice TV deal with ESPN prior to the work stoppage. After that, Versus. Almost to a person, and regardless of your opinion of ESPN (most know mine), Versus doesn’t quite carry the same cache’ as ESPN. The ramifications of that lost season are still felt. And the Blue Jackets have lost to highest percentage of attendance (23.67% according to 24/7 Wall St.) of any team in the NHL. Of the seven listed, three are NHL teams, three are NBA franchises and there is one NFL team.

In looking at this, I do keep this in mind. A team losing money isn’t completely tied to the lost season. The team’s overall play does figure into it as well, but some teams have yet to recoup the attendance lost from that full year of downtime. I still read and hear of the “fringe fans” that elect to say away from baseball due to the lost time back when baseball fans were deprived of any postseason back in 1994 and the start of the 1995 season.

We Reds fans remember those two years all too well. It was a time of “what could have been” for Cincinnati.

And baseball cannot repeat that stoppage from 1994-1995. Measures have been instituted to prevent such and this current news from Rosenthal is upbeat to say the least.

Some of us may disagree with how MLB handles certain aspects within the game, but we can agree that a quick resolution and construction and agreement from both sides regarding a new CBA is of the utmost importance.

Baseball is the great American past-time.

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