MLB’s Labor Problems Are Just Beginning

Woe is baseball!

Major League Baseball is coming back. That is probably the best news that the industry can offer because the coming back part is tenuous at best with COVID-19 not under containment. COVID-19 did created a major fissure between Major League Baseball owners and players and has set up the next fight between the two sides. Getting a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place for the 2022 season and doing it without a lockout or a players’ strike and that might be difficult to accomplish. The owners have not hidden their agenda which will be wrapped around cost certainty, the players want money. The money issue is always prevalent but there are complications in this round of bargaining. The American economy is reeling despite what Dow Jones or NASDAQ say. The owners have television money coming in and a new deal with AT &T’s Turner Sports will be kicking in during the life of the new CBA when that is reached. But there will be a dearth of paying customers in the building until there are drug treatments and a vaccine, if one ever is available, to control and cure COVID-19. Will corporate money to buy luxury boxes and club seats, the lifeblood of stadium revenue, return once the all clear signal is sounded?

Major League Baseball still has two problem franchises. Oakland and Tampa Bay. Oakland A’s ownership had a plan to build a waterfront stadium near Jack London Square. But A’s ownership might buy the land where the Oakland Coliseum sits. At this point, the Tampa Bay Rays ownership is no closer to a new ballpark than it was pre-pandemic. A proposal to build a Rays ballpark in Ybor City fell through in 2018 because public funding was not available. The pandemic and economic shutdowns have had an impact on all municipal budgets which won’t help Rays’ ownership.