The Rundown: CBA Talks Moving at Glacial Pace, Prospect Howard ‘Built for Pressure,’ Bryant Linked to Mariners Again

On my bucket list of things that I’ll never get to do is kayaking the Kenai Fjords. In my mind, I can see skyscraper-high glaciers with blinding white mountains of ice that carry some of the most sought-after secrets of the Earth’s history. Thinking of such an adventure, in the birthplace of kayaking, mind you, I can almost hear sheaths of snow and occasional boulders of ice cascading from the structures into the still, turquoise waters of Aialik Bay.

Locals call the earth-shattering roar of those building-sized chunks careening from the glacier’s cliffs “White Thunder.” They hit the water with an ominous thud that echoes through the mountainous landscape for 60 seconds or more. As history has proven, mankind is no match for nature, so the detachment of each icy flume is equally beautiful and haunting. The dynamic terrain of the park’s massive floes is a slow-moving tribute to the planet’s harshest historical elements, each floating rock as powerful as it is fragile. Filmed documentaries, even in the highest definition, could never compare to witnessing that firsthand.

Such is the glacial pace of baseball’s ongoing labor negotiations. The two sides met Monday, and with just about a week left to salvage Opening Day, that plop you heard hitting the water was an ice-cube-sized $5 million concession by the league. The players have been asking for a $115 million pool for pre-arbitration bonuses, and the owners moved from $15 to $20 million, or about $670,000 per team in total.

The league’s deliberate pace spilled over into other points of discussion. Clubs increased their proposal for an amateur draft lottery from the top three picks to the top four. Players have asked for the top eight to help curb ambitious tanking, for lack of a better phrase. The owners made no movement on the competitive balance tax, nor will they probably ever.

That’s the owners’ ballast, and staying the course forces the union to consistently back peddle ever so slightly on its other fiduciary interests. The intent of the league is very clear: Owners are no longer satisfied with a “soft” cap, even if few teams cross the $212 million to $220 million boundaries they wish to keep in place.

Players want to increase the threshold to $245 million immediately, with an increase to $273 million over the term of the next agreement. In order to sway movement to their side, they concede a little more on other key points in almost every session. However, the owners aren’t budging.

This issue could be harder to resolve because the tax effectively suppresses pay. The commissioner and his constituents will have a better chance of keeping their defacto cap with minimal increases if they are willing to make concessions on the pre-arbitration pool. A $5 million kick offers nary a compromise and exhibits supreme confidence in the league’s ability to control negotiations.

Monday’s session was just the seventh on core economics in 82 days since Rob Manfred declared that a “defensive lockout” might serve as the ignitor with which to increase the velocity of negotiations. The slow pace indicates the owners appear to be banking on attrition to hold serve. It’s almost as if Manfred’s doomsday declaration about a potential postponement of Opening Day was nothing more than anti-union posturing. Scheduling daily meetings as the stroke of midnight inches ever closer could be a similar ploy.

“I’m an optimist and I believe we’ll have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule,” Manfred told reporters last week. “I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry. I’m committed to reaching an agreement.”

If baseball’s commissioner is committed, it stands to reason the owners he represents must be bound by similar resolve. That means Manfred has subliminally posited that any failure to start this season on March 31 lies squarely on the shoulders of the players. If a delay to the regular season is announced, any urgency to complete a deal dissipates, at least from the league’s vantage point. The sound of that cascading shelf could hit this weekend, if not sooner.

“White Thunder,” indeed. It’s becoming more and more obvious that any forthcoming agreement will be attached to a high number of union concessions.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” – Gordon Gekko, from the movie Wall Street.

Climbing the Ladder

“But February made me shiver, with every paper I delivered. Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step.” – Don McLean, American Pie

Will this be the week that baseball dies? I don’t think so, but some do. Fan apathy should probably be at the top of Manfred’s concerns if an agreement isn’t reached soon.

Baseball News & Notes

Over the weekend, Vanderbilt (and several other NCAA teams) debuted a new FitBit-like pitch-signaling device. Players wear the digital receiver on their glove hand to receive pitch selection information from the coaching staff.

The Mariners are on the hunt for a power-hitting right-handed batter, and Kris Bryant might be at the top of their list.

The Red Sox have signed Tyler Danish to a minor league contract.

Quarterback Kyler Murray is unhappy with the Arizona Cardinals right now and could use the threat of playing baseball to force a trade.

Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

If you’ve seen the movie 42, the scene where Branch Rickey hurls racial insults at Jackie Robinson is reportedly factual, and actually tempered down quite a bit.

A contingent of Black sports journalists was instrumental in pushing MLB to break the color barrier in the 1940s.

Often overlooked in baseball’s decision to integrate is that the Negro Leagues were starting to draw crowds that rivaled their MLB counterparts.

If the lockout does indeed steamroll Opening Day, you don’t have to look much farther down the calendar to see the next potential casualty.

Negotiations & Love Songs

No matter how the league tries to spin it to the public, the owners want the competitive balance tax to serve as a true salary cap.

Tim Dierkes of MLBTR offers a thorough breakdown of the Super Two proposal by the MLBPA.

The billionaires vs. millionaires declarations represent an overexaggerated narrative.

Today’s Baseball Jones

If you’re a baseball fan younger than 35, chances are you have no memory of Wrigley Field without lights. If you’re older, then you remember how big a deal it was for the Friendly Confines to get nighttime illumination on August 8, 1988. That game was rained out, so the first official night game occurred the next evening. The Cubs were 3-3 in post-sunset baseball that first year, and they beat the Mets 6-4 in the inaugural night game. A bleacher ticket sold for $4.00 that night.

Mike Bielecki is credited with the first evening start at Wrigley Field and Lenny Dykstra was the first player to go yard beneath the lights.

Apropos of Nothing

I’m a couple of weeks late for Valentine’s Day, but nothing says “I Love You” more than a monthly Taco Bell subscription. “It’s the gift that keeps on givin’ the whole year ’round.”

Three Yards & a Cloud of Dust

  1. If you recognize this heading, that means you’ve read me over at Bears Insider.
  2. I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers copy the same format I use for the Rundown, and even apply it to other teams and sports, like the NFL, for instance. I am not flattered by imitation. I’ll see shrink about that, but…
  3. I am going to start incorporating music into the First & Long posts at our sister site.

Extra Innings

Hard to believe this quote is from Sandy Koufax and not “Drillin” Don Drysdale. Koufax has the greatest nickname ever – “The Left Arm of God.” Vin Scully had to have coined that.

They Said It

  • “I feel like my whole life I’ve kind of always had eyes on me. I went to the Little League World Series at a young age. I feel like I’m built for the pressure. I’m used to it at this point.” – Howard

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads – Maybe Max Scherzer should host a bargaining session-slash-barbecue in Jupiter, FL to help finalize a deal. Nothing screams “equitable” like a guy making $43 million per year cooking ribeyes and lobster tails for the gentlemen who bid him up that high before the lockout.

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