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MLB lockout: Four things to know as talks between owners and players get serious in January

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The owner lockout that has halted Major League Baseball has now spanned into its second month and the new year. There’s been precious little movement on the major issues since the labor stoppage became official just after midnight on Dec. 2, but the hopeful presumption is that the intensity of talks ramps up now that we’re clear of the holidays.

Given this important juncture, it’s time for a reset, and we’re here to press that particular button. So as we move forward deeper into the offseason and the owner lockout, here are four considerations that set the scene for what’s to come – and what’s to come is, one hopes, a new collective bargaining agreement and a 2022 season that proceeds on schedule and in full. Forthwith? Forthwith.

Talks should get serious in January

The radio silence since the owner lockout commenced is duly noted, but that’s about to change. Here’s part of a recent dispatch from Evan Drellich of The Athletic

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“It’s been a long December in the baseball world, and there’s no reason to believe that’s about to change. Major League Baseball and the Players Association are unlikely to talk core economics until January, people with knowledge of the talks said.”

Drellich also reports that owners and the union before the new year were set to discuss matters of relatively lesser importance. That’s notable because at the very least discussions took place even if those discussions didn’t address the thornier issues upon which agreeing to a new CBA will hinge. At the very least, there’s some communication and “soft” negotiating going on. 

Those ‘core economics’ are complicated

What’s ahead, however, is a veritable thicket. Given that the average player salary has declined in the face of ever-soaring franchise values, the union wants to remake the economic structure of the game. The players’ wish list is too expansive to be addressed in a single CBA negotiation, but you should expect that their energies will be focused on getting young players paid more and paid sooner. 

Younger players in terms of on-field value are, as a group, better than older players, but the antiquated salary structure, which is driven by tenure rather than capability, doesn’t reflect that. Right now, almost all players are entitled to no more than the major-league minimum until they have three years of MLB service time, at which point they become eligible for arbitration. To put a damning point on it, AL MVP finalist Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made just $605,400 this season (compared to the current minimum salary of $570,500), which means he was underpaid relative to his production by tens of millions of dollars. 

For the union, this can be addressed in multiple ways. The clearest path would be to fight for a significant increase to the minimum salary. Right now, the MLB minimum trails those of the NFL, NBA, and NHL, and that’s not a trend the Players Association should permit to continue. In an ideal world, the union would put a large chunk of its negotiation capital into doubling the minimum, or thereabouts. Not only would such a jump in the minimum raise the de facto salary floor by a significant margin but it would also provide the underclass of players who never make it to arbitration and free agency with much more financial security. That’s especially important as the average career length in MLB trends downward. In lieu of a major increase to the minimum (or in addition to), the players could angle to lower the bar for arbitration eligibility back to two years (where it was during the early existence of the process) and or press to lower the service-time requirements for free agency.

At the same time, discussions will be taking place on how to address the tanking phenomenon and the status of the luxury tax on payrolls moving forward. The owners are largely pleased with the status quo and will be resistant to such changes. In matters related, they’re fond of making proposals that don’t in any way address the players’ leading concerns, and that will remain an impediment when it comes to getting a new CBA. 

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These are complicated matters that won’t be easily resolved, but these discussions have been going on for years, at least in general terms. There’s at least a foundation in place, even if there’s much work to be done. 

The players may have some leverage for the time being

Negotiations leading up to the COVID-shortened 2020 season served to galvanize the players, and the mass of signings leading up to the owner lockout means less uncertainty for several high-profile free agents. All of that, in turn, makes it less likely that there will be divisions within the ranks of players. Beyond those factors, veteran players like union rep Max Scherzer sound fully committed to fighting for the rights of younger and less tenured players during these negotiations. That means fewer class schisms that management can exploit. 

Time will soon be running short 

Should we get into the second week of February or thereabouts without a deal, then the possibility of a compromised spring training becomes a concern. This again plays into the leverage that players may have right now. Spring training games at sites in Arizona and Florida have become a profit center for teams, and they don’t want to lose those games. Players, meantime, don’t start getting checks until the regular season begins. So the prospect of a shortened spring training figures to increase pressure on the league side to get a deal done. 

That’s a situation that bears close monitoring as discussions take on a more important tone in January. 

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Biggest MLB stars suspended for PEDs: Fernando Tatis Jr. joins Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, more on list

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Friday night, a shockwave was sent through the baseball world when Major League Baseball announced San Diego Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Clostebol, a performance-enhancing drug. The 80-game suspension begins immediately. Tatis will miss the final 48 games of 2022 and the first 32 games of 2023.

“We were surprised and extremely disappointed to learn today that Fernando Tatis Jr. tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Prevention and Treatment Program and subsequently received an 80-game suspension without pay,” read a statement by the Padres. “We fully support the Program and are hopeful that Fernando will learn from this experience.”

Between the offseason motorcycle accident that broke his wrist and this PED suspension, Tatis will miss the entire season and go roughly 20 months between appearances in an MLB game when he returns next season. The 23-year-old who’s finished in the top four in the NL MVP voting twice already is in the second year of his 14-year, $340 million contract extension.

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Needless to say, this is a shocker, and Tatis is certainly one of the biggest stars to be suspended for PEDs. Here are 10 other big name players who have been suspended for banned substances, listed alphabetically.

Suspended: 65 games in July 2013

In December 2011, Braun was suspended 50 games for PEDs, though he was able to get the suspension overturned through an appeal because the sample’s chain of custody had been broken. Less that two years later, Braun was suspended again, this time for his connections to Biogenesis. Braun was suspended 50 games for PEDs and additional 15 games for his actions during the appeals process of the original suspension. He later admitted to lying and using PEDs during his 2011 NL MVP season.

Suspended: 50 games in August 2012

If nothing else, Cabrera undoubtedly has the most ridiculous PED defense. He created a fake website pushing a fake product that he said led to a positive test inadvertently. It did not fool MLB’s investigators. Cabrera was an All-Star the year he was suspended and would have won the NL batting title, though he withdrew his name from the race. “I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted. I believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win,” Cabrera said at the time.

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Suspended: 80 games in May 2018 and 162 games in November 2020

Unlike some other players in this post, there is no wild story to Canó’s suspension(s). He was suspended in May 2018, served it, was suspended again in November 2020, and he served that too. There was no nasty appeals process or anything like that. Canó was traded in the offseason immediately following his first suspension, however. Still hard to believe another team wanted a declining 36-year-old player owed big money and coming off a PED suspension.

Suspended: 50 games in August 2012

Colon missed all of 2010 with arm problems, resurfaced with the Yankees in 2011, then joined the Athletics as a free agent in 2012. He took responsibility for the failed test and went on to spend another seven years in the big leagues as a journeyman starter.

Suspended: 50 games in August 2013

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A total of 13 players were suspended in 2013 as part of the Biogenesis scandal, and Cruz — an All-Star that season and a year away from becoming a consistent 40-homer threat — was among them. Cruz did have to settle for a one-year contract as a free agent after the 2013 season, however.

Jenrry Mejia

Suspended: 80 games in April 2015, 162 games in July 2015, and a lifetime ban in February 2016

Mejia was not a big name player, but he deserves a mention here because he was the first — and is still the only — player to be hit with a lifetime ban as a result of a third positive PED test. And the thing is, Mejia was hit with his second suspension while he was serving his first, and he was hit with his third suspension when he was still serving his second. Now, lifetime bans aren’t always lifetime bans. Mejia was quietly granted reinstatement in July 2018, though he has not pitched in an MLB game since 2015. He is still active and is currently pitching in the Mexican League.

Rafael Palmeiro

Suspended: 10 days in August 2005

The first star player to be suspended for PEDs, Palmeiro was hit with his suspension less than five months after sitting in front of a Congressional panel and saying: “I have never used steroids. Period.” The suspension came less than a month after Palmeiro became the fifth player to reach the milestones of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Palmeiro’s suspension also shows how far the penalties have come. He was suspended only 10 days. Now, first-time offenders get 80 games.

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Manny Ramirez

Suspended: 50 games in May 2009 and 100 games in April 2011

Ramirez was not the first player to be suspended twice for PEDs — Neifi Pérez was suspended 25 games in July 2017 and then 80 games in August 2007 — but he was certainly the first big star to be suspended for PEDs twice. Manny was with the Rays and voluntarily retired following the second suspension and later agreed to a reduced 50-game ban in December 2011, though it is technically still pending. Should Ramirez, now 50, attempt a comeback, he’ll have to serve the suspension before being activated by an MLB team. Manny played in the minors in 2012, in Taiwan in 2013, and in the minors again in 2014.

Alex Rodriguez

Suspended: 162 games in 2014

A-Rod never actually failed a PED test. He did admit to using PEDs during his time with the Texas Rangers, then he was suspended following MLB’s investigation into Biogenesis in August 2013. A-Rod was originally suspended 214 games (the rest of the 2013 season and all of 2014), though he got it reduced to 162 games through appeal. Rodriguez went scorched earth during the appeals process and threatened to sue MLB, the MLBPA, the Yankees, the commissioner, you name it. He never did follow through on the lawsuits, however. At the time the 162-game PED suspension was the longest in MLB history.

Miguel Tejada

Suspended: 105 games in August 2013

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Tejada, the 2002 AL MVP, tested positive for amphetamines, not testosterone or a hardcore anabolic steroid. Amphetamines were not always banned and were once common in big league clubhouses. Under the policy at the time, the first positive test for an amphetamine effectively came with a warning. The second brought a 25-game suspension and the third an 80-game suspension. Tejada had previously tested positive for an amphetamine, and he tested positive for the second and third time with the Royals in 2013. The 25-game and 80-game bans together equal 105 games. Tejada never played in the big leagues again after being suspended.



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Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado crush home runs to give the Cardinals the win

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Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado blast home runs to give the St. Louis Cardinals the win over the Milwaukee Brewers.



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Zach Wilson to undergo an MRI after suffering knee injury in Jets’ first preseason game

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Jets second-year quarterback Zach Wilson departed New York’s preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles after suffering a knee injury. With over four minutes to play in the first quarter, Wilson took a first-and-10 snap from New York’s 40-yard line and scrambled out right. As he turned upfield, Wilson tried to make a cut towards the middle of the field to shake loose a would-be tackler and went down awkwardly. 

He initially was helped up by a teammate and had a noticeable limp. Wilson was then sent to the locker room for further evaluation and the Jets officially ruled him questionable to return with a knee injury. Wilson did not return to the game, and afterwords, Jets coach Robert Saleh told reporters that Wilson will undergo an MRI on Saturday. 

Given that this is merely an exhibition, it wouldn’t be surprising for the team to keep him sidelined for the rest of the game even if he is healthy enough to go. This injury does have some room for concern, however, because it doesn’t appear like Wilson was touched as he went down to the field. And anytime there’s a non-contact injury, it should leave the team holding its breath. 

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Prior to the injury, Wilson wasn’t off to a hot start. On the Jets’ opening drive of the evening, he threw a poor interception to Eagles linebacker Kyzir White on a pass intended for Corey Davis. Wilson completed three of his five passes for 23 yards and that pick before going down. 

The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is entering his sophomore season after a rocky rookie campaign. In 13 games, he completed just 55.6% of his passes for 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. 





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