There’s no indication when the 2022 season will start following a contentious set of labor negotiations that resulted in commissioner Rob Manfred canceling the first two series of the year. The general expectation is that further games are quite likely to be lost as well, given the acrimonious nature of talks to date.
On the topic of those negotiations, Blue Jays right-hander Ross Stripling lobbed some fairly eye-opening accusations toward ownership and the manner in which their proposal suddenly changed late in the game. Stripling tells Shi Davidi and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet that, as the two sides spoke late Monday evening and into the early hours of Tuesday morning, MLB’s proposal suddenly included notable changes regarding the luxury tax. Stripling implies that the changes extend beyond mere alterations to the threshold levels and penalty rates — instead featuring completely new items that had not been previously presented.
“It got to be like 12:30 [in the morning] and the fine print of their CBT proposal was stuff we had never seen before,” says Stripling. “They were trying to sneak things through us, it was like they think we’re dumb baseball players and we get sleepy after midnight or something. … They pushed us to a deadline that they imposed, and then they tried to sneak some shit past us at that deadline and we were ready for it.”
Stripling went on to echo the sentiments broadcast by Giants lefty Alex Wood on Twitter yesterday, wherein Wood claimed that the reported optimism late Monday was “pumped to the media” by Major League Baseball as a public relations strategy. Wood and Stripling maintain that the players’ “tone” never changed Tuesday, as the league claimed via a statement from an anonymous spokesperson. Stripling, Wood, James McCann and several others have publicly stated that the union never felt the sense of optimism broadcast by the league and that MLB’s suggestions of a “change in tone” were an effort to cast blame on players for scuttling a deal at the last minute.
Stripling’s comments, to an extent, also mesh with concerns raised by union leader Tony Clark at yesterday’s press conference. Speaking in the wake of Manfred’s cancelation of games, Clark revealed that during the late stages of negotiations, the league sought to enact a series of rule changes for the 2023 season that would see defensive shifts limited, the size of bases expanded and the implementation of a pitch clock. While Clark noted that the players were not necessarily opposed, the fact that MLB raised them so late in the process left the union with little to no time to discuss them — an obvious point of consternation.
Stripling is hardly alone in his willingness to speak out and voice his displeasure with the manner in which negotiations transpired. Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic chronicled a series of player frustrations that were broadcast via social media, citing Wood, Evan Longoria, Anthony Rizzo, Michael Lorenzen, Kevin Pillar and others. As Ghiorli examines, the players’ ability to freely speak their minds — and share details like those laid out by Stripling, Wood and others — are fascinating new wrinkles to labor talks that did not exist prior to the social media age. While fans have understandably grown exhausted by the public jabs being traded (whether directly or via reports), the lack of any real momentum regarding a return to play and the general distrust between the parties only sets the stage for further exchanges of this nature.