Same plan different tactics?
I’ve written in the past that Bud Selig intended the 1994 strike to weaken the union. Marc Normandin’s post for Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) supports that view suggests that the 1994 mistake cited by Rob Manfred as the reason for the 2021 lockout wasn’t trusting the union not to strike.
"The “mistake” of 1994 wasn’t beginning the season without a CBA in place . . . It was the assumption that the owners could just bully their way to the CBA . . . and that they could either break the union or outright replace them if that failed."
He goes on to remind us that the reason the Atlanta Braves had a World Series to win in 1995 wasn’t a new CBA, but the decision of a now-famous judge to say, play ball.
And then the fight started.
After the league unilaterally implemented a salary cap, then withdrew it and abolished arbitration, The union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB quickly came down on the players’ side and the case went to federal court.
The case landed on the desk of Sonia Sotomayor, then a federal judge in the New York District. After reviewing the submittals, she told the sides to stop fighting and work things out while teams played. In a 2009 article, the New York Times quoted parts of her ruling.
". . . the harm to the players is the very one the owners’ unfair labor practices sought to achieve, i.e., an alteration of free-agency rights and a skewing of their worth. . . Issuing the injunction before opening day is important to ensure that the symbolic value of that day is not tainted by an unfair labor practice and the N.L.R.B.’s inability to take effective steps against its perpetuation."
The Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995 and appeared in it again in 1996, as the PED-fueled battle of cheats for Hank Aaron’s home run crown distracted fans. Few realized that it took two seasons before the two sides agreed on a new CBA in March 1997.
In 1996, the league hired Rob Manfred as an advisor because they needed someone who could spell labor law working for baseball. It’s an unscripted irony that 28-years later the owners haven’t paid attention to their in-house expert.
That’s a wrap
Atlanta Braves players and fans lost their hard-won opportunity to celebrate a World Series title and rebuild for another title run when both sides in this ongoing farce quit talking. Both sides have some level of blame for the current impasse.
It’s now the job of Manfred and Clark to put their well-known, poorly hidden animous in their back pocket and get the players back on the field. Manfred must reign in his militant owners while rebuilding the trust shattered by the last CBA, the 2020 season, and this stupid lockout.
Clark must put aside the goal of correcting issues that took decades to manifest themselves in one agreement without creating more unintended consequences. I hope cooler heads on both sides prevail, but I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps I’m wrong, as I write this, reports are coming that a deal is near. . . again.