Neal: Baseball lockout cuts bones now for fans, twins and St. Peter team president
After 16 hours of back-and-forth between baseball team owners and the players’ union on Tuesday, Twins president Dave St. Peter arrived at his Target Field office Wednesday morning optimistic about a convention collective.
A deal would trigger an abbreviated spring training but restore the 162-game regular season — a season that would keep fans at 100% capacity from start to finish. St. Peter could then anticipate the annual breakfast in the square and the pageantry the opening day is known for.
He still can. But he doesn’t know when that day will come after talks broke down and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced later Wednesday that a second week of games would be called off. It would wipe out the Twins’ scheduled April 7 home opener against Seattle and five more games in the team’s home opener.
“It felt like we were in the starting zone today,” St. Peter said Wednesday night, “especially when you consider the possibility of losing another week of games. These games are getting tougher and tougher. to catch up.
“We are probably closer than a week or two weeks ago. But closeness is not enough. We have to get a deal. I hope everyone is as focused on this as they need to be. .”
We are moving towards day 100 of lockdown. It took far too long for both sides to get closer. They agreed on several points:
- The minimum wage will increase from $550,000 to $700,000 in the first year of the agreement.
- The luxury tax threshold will increase more than owners originally wanted, something mid- and small-business teams were particularly sensitive to.
- A six-team lottery designed to discourage tanking.
- The National League would add the designated hitter.
But every time the owners mention an international draft, the players have dismissed it. The owners insisted again this week, even offering to implement it in 2024 at the earliest. Reports have upset the union that it has suddenly become a bigger priority, given the late stage of those talks. The union wavered again on Wednesday, talks broke down and games were called off.
Corruption has seeped into the current international framework in which Latin players sign with teams once they turn 16. Deals are made with 13 and 14 year olds, which are then hidden from other teams until then can sign. There have been kickbacks to scouts, the funneling of more money to players by signing less talented players for more than they are worth with the extra money passed on to the better prospect. And performance-enhancing drugs given to teenagers.
“Any time a 12- or 13-year-old is spotted, it’s a bumpy ride,” St. Peter said.
The union wants Latin players to continue to choose who they sign with and for how much.
Someone will have to blink here. Wednesday marked the 98th day of the lockout.
It could have been avoided.
The owners announced the lockout on December 2. Instead of embarking on serious negotiations, there was a 43-day gap in talks over the holidays and into January. The teams didn’t get serious until February.
It’s up to you to decide which side is less sincere. For me, the owners took a big lead on December 2, but both parties are responsible for the events of the last two days.
With the exception of three games played by the Gophers during a trip to Florida, Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers is largely unused. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and his coaching staff are holding meetings and working with players who are not on the 40-man roster and therefore not locked out.
Images of sunny Florida fields with baseball players preparing for a new season could be the cure for what is plaguing the frozen Minnesota sports fan. But the lockout is raging. And it has now cost the Twins their first home game.
“It sucks to lose a game at home,” said a frustrated St. Peter. “I have tremendous empathy for our fans. They’ve been great. They’ve been through a lot – all the challenges that our city and our community have faced over the past two years.
“They wanted to get back to the ballpark and support the team. Now they’re going to be delayed.”