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MLB cancels the start of the season as players and owners fail to reach a labor deal


No deal. Major League Baseball and the players union haven't yet reached a compromise on a variety of issues, so the 2022 season will not only be delayed, but the first few days of games have already been canceled. Opening day was set for March 31, but the players say they need about a month to train, and without an agreement, there's no way they can meet that deadline.

Joining us now is Doug Glanville, ESPN analyst and nine-year Major League Baseball veteran, playing for the Phillies, Cubs and Rangers. Doug, in December, the league locked out players, stopping them from using facilities and kept free agents from signing new contracts. And that followed disagreements on how to divvy up an estimated 11 billion bucks in revenue. What's been the deal-breaker for both sides?

DOUG GLANVILLE: History. I just have to go back in time a little bit. You know, you're talking about a long-standing relationship that was built by labor dispute - strikes, lockouts. The sort of front in which way the relationship was defined was the gains made in the '70s, when Marvin Miller was the executive director, sort of the early first. And he had a steel industry history. And when he came in, he created a lot of these systems that have created the economic benefits that the players enjoy today that - whether arbitration or free agency. And every year, they were very successful at gaining a lot of ground, not only with new systems but with new revenue.

And what led this - to this point is the last roughly 10 years or so, the players have seen a decline in their share of revenue with respect to their salaries. It's actually been going down, a declining middle class, and they're trying to create a change in that trajectory. So when you look at the history, the owners are seeing an opportunity now through what has been, quote, "labor peace" over the last 25 years, making gains on the economic side of the equation. And so now it's colliding in this moment where - you know, not willing to get over certain thresholds to get this deal done right now.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, Doug, it feels like sometimes baseball lags behind the NFL and the NBA in attracting and holding onto younger fans. What are the players saying about how all of this might stunt the game's growth?

GLANVILLE: Very concerned. You know, the players - what is so different about when I played is you're seeing veteran players promote and try to elevate the younger players. They're seeing that there's a youth movement in baseball where some of the best players on the planet are younger players, where back in the day that was like, OK, you know, be seen, not heard. You know, pay your dues. You don't really hear that from what you're seeing now. So they're actually trying to do this to not only create value where you have players that are performing but not getting paid well just because they're less than three years of service. That third year is where you had arbitration, and that's where you sort of make the big money.

And now the veteran players - and collectively they're trying to bring up that class of player and really put them on par with their performance. And that's unique. And so they're very aware when you start losing those players or, you know, terms of not being on the field right now and losing the fact that you know, other sports, as you mentioned, are in this continuum where they're able to...


GLANVILLE: ...You know, play through the labor. You know, that's a big problem.

MARTÍNEZ: Doug, quickly, I traveled with the Dodgers for 10 years, and every February, when I'd report spring training, I'd hear guys complain that it's too long. We don't need six weeks to get ready for the season. So if a deal gets done soon, can a full season still happen?

GLANVILLE: It would have to be very soon, very soon. I mean, they don't have a lot of time to get ready. You didn't need six weeks, but you can't do it in two, either.

MARTÍNEZ: ESPN analyst Doug Glanville. Doug, thanks a lot for the time.

GLANVILLE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAEGEL'S "WATCH YOUR BACK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.