After a week of baseball, it’s fair to say these new young Padres are fun. And after eight seasons of losing teams, it’s great to head to Petco Park and really enjoy it. So, of course, MLB is doing everything in its power to make sure we get a work stoppage two years from now.
The writing has been on the wall for a while now. The first grumblings came in 2015, when the Cubs held down Kris Bryant. The USD alumnus was the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, and head and shoulders Chicago’s best choice to man the hot corner. But the Ricketts stashed him in AAA for a few weeks to start the season to wring out an extra year of team control. This scheme of service time manipulation is still happening: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is starting his season in the minors, even though there’s nothing for him to gain there. The Padres have been the rare exception to this practice, opening the season with Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Chris Paddack on the roster.
Then the last two years have seen unusually quiet offseasons for free agents. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, a pair of generational talents, went unsigned until after players reported for spring training. Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are still free agents, even though they’d make almost every team better.
And while big leaguers are having trouble getting a fair shake, that pales in comparison to the situation minor leaguers face. They aren’t even paid a living wage, and as Emily Waldon documented for The Athletic, many players drop out of professional baseball simply because they can’t afford not to.
The bottom line is that owners are trying to do everything they can to squeeze money from players, despite constantly rising revenues. And, well, MLBPA isn’t happy about that. They filed suit against four teams last year for misusing revenue sharing funds, and last year they hired attorney Bruce Meyer as their new negotiator. They’re paying attention to the PR side of things, too, as they hired respected baseball writer Jerry Crasnick, who should do a great job convincing fans to side with the players in upcoming negotiations.
All of this is leading toward a major confrontation when the current collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021. That gives us three seasons of Fernando Tatis, Jr. before greedy owners send us into an unpleasant reenactment of the 1994 baseball season. Let’s enjoy it while we can.