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Rob Manfred MLB lockout updates: DH, draft lottery, optimism for season on-time

Commissioner reports glimpse of progress in press conference

MLB Owners Meetings Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The MLB lockout has now passed 10 weeks of stalemate. Spring training games are scheduled to begin around two weeks from now, so the clock is ticking for owners and players to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Click here for our latest look at the situation from Wednesday.

Commissioner Rob Manfred held a press conference Thursday, in which he offered updates on some points of progress between the two sides and expressed optimism that the regular season would begin on time. Click here to watch video of his statement and his answers to key questions.

Early in his speech, Manfred confirmed two topics that appear settled.

“We’ve agreed to a universal designated hitter and the elimination of draft choice compensation.”

Both of these were reasonably expected to happen, and it sounds like they will. Presumably nothing is official until pen hits paper, just as a game ain’t over till it’s over, but for now we can probably safely operate as if they’re official. There will be a DH in the NL, and star free agents won’t have to worry about qualifying offers or anything of the sort.

“We’ve agreed to institute a draft lottery to address the players’ concern about clubs not competing.”

This idea has been tossed around in public conversation for a while now, and it appears to have taken a step forward into reality. The NBA already does things this way, so there is precedent for it as a method of disincentivizing teams from tanking for a better pick. The details of how the lottery will work aren’t yet known, but it will be there in some form.

“We’d like to expand the playoffs.”

The phrasing seems notable. They haven’t agreed to this yet. Maybe they still won’t?

“I am an optimist, and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule.”

That’s not terribly reassuring. But it’s also far from the worst prognosis he could have given, so let’s call it a win for now, or at least a leadoff single. MLB insider Jon Heyman is less optimistic about spring training starting on time.

“We remain committed to offering solutions and will once again offer the Players Association a proposal on Saturday to move the process forward.”

Mark your calendars! We have a timeline for the next step in these thrilling labor negotiations.

Some other absurd things Manfred said

Manfred spoke for several minutes, and during that time a few ridiculous statements slipped through.

“That’s why we’ve proposed ... significantly increased minimum salaries.”

Unless something has changed since the last update, this is mathematically false. They have proposed an incremental increase that doesn’t even keep up with recent inflation. If there has been movement on this topic that hasn’t yet been announced, or if the new proposal on Saturday has a big change in this regard, then I’ll rescind my complaint, but for now this sounded like a whopper to me.

“The [Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service] is there exactly for these types of labor disputes, and we thought it would be productive given the tightening calendar.”

Nope. Calling in the government was a PR move to make the other side look bad, and nobody ever thought it would be productive.

“In the history of baseball, the only person who has made a labor agreement without a dispute, and I did four of them, was me. Somehow, during those four negotiations, players and union representatives trusted me enough to make a deal.”

Correlation does not imply causation.

“If you look at the purchase price of franchises, the cash that’s put in during the period of ownership and then what they’ve sold for, historically the return on those investments is...below what you’d expect to get in the stock market.” (via Chelsea Janes of Washington Post)

This comment is a masterpiece of mind-blowing nonsense. I’ll just let some other folks register responses.

Stop it, Rob. This doesn’t feel like bargaining in good faith.

Hope for progress?

Complaints aside, the press conference offered some signs of cautious hope.

Manfred put on an optimistic attitude, both in his tone and in the content of what he said, which is better than if he’d come out all doom-and-gloom. His optimism that the season could start on time is better than if he’d suggested or even outright guaranteed that it would be delayed. And it sounds like the sides made progress on a few details, with plans to talk again soon.

Baby steps. But at least they’re in the right direction.

I even agreed with Manfred on a couple things. He wants to keep revenue sharing as a tool to boost league parity, and I also want that. And he said this:

“If I hadn’t given consideration to what it would mean to miss games, I wouldn’t be doing my job obviously. ... I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry.”

Correct, he wouldn’t be doing his job, and it would be disastrous. So let’s make sure it doesn’t happen!

Stay tuned for more on Saturday.