The MLB players and owners are at it again, parsing their way through many unresolved issues in the incessant haggling over a new collective bargaining agreement. Sigh. And maybe another yawn.

Still, the chatter has raised hopes. Is there traction in the negotiations? Can a deal be set into place by late Tuesday to prevent another block of canceled regular-season games? According to multiple media reports, if the two sides can get it done today, a 162-game season will still be played. If the negotiations collapse again, then MLB will likely wipe out a second week of games.

The owners have, at least for now, moved in a direction that can help speed this up – as long as they’re being genuine about wanting to close in on an agreement. And with baseball owners, we can never be sure.

The owners’ newest competitive balance tax proposal sets a 2022 threshold at $228 million and increases to $238 million by end of the deal. But there are probably some strings attached that will make players wince.

And if the CBT ceiling tops out at $238 million in 2026, that $238 million would represent less than 1 percent growth over the life of the proposed CBT. So the players are being asked to agree to a CBT system that would be even more restrictive in reality.

By now, we’re all burned out on the nitty-gritty in the proposals and the financials.

Let’s state the obvious … again.

– This bickering never should have gotten this far. Not in a business funded by huge TV revenues that continue to grow. Not when MLB just made another deal with Apple TV +, a lucrative streaming arrangement that will make owners very, very happy. The players shouldn’t expect much in return. And what about the worst of the owners? You know, the de facto thieves who don’t even try to fake a desire to win and are content to lose 100 games with a low payroll … well, now they’ll have some fresh Apple TV revenue to prop them up. Nice system. And we’re supposed to believe that the players are the problem?

– The players have largely backed off on their most ambitious, aggressive demands. The noise about a revolution has gone quiet. By this stage the players are willing to settle for relatively small gains within the current structure. By all indications the players are willing to sign off on a deal that would maintain the status quo but include minor improvements for the union.

– The union has attained nothing that would take care of baseball’s diminishing middle-class of players, and largely failed in the quest to funnel more money to cheaper, younger players that, as a group, provide the most value to the teams. An increase in the minimum player salary is akin to flipping a few coins in the fountain. The “bonus pool” would impact a ridiculously low number of young players.

As Andy McCullough wrote at The Athletic: “It would be one thing if the players were asking for free agency after four seasons and a $4 million minimum salary. Or free agency after five years and a $2 million salary. Or even a $1 million salary and an alteration to MLB’s revenue-sharing system.”

Indeed. The owners successfully resisted major change, and it’s too late to start over. The players are crawling to the finish line. They’re still willing to appease the owners’ desires (and greed) for expanded playoffs. The owners took some positive steps late Tuesday by pitching a better offer to the players on a number of issues including the CBT. A deal could be close — or so it seems. Getting this finalized should be easy. This ugliness must end. So do it. End it.

“It’s embarrassing to be where we are,” Yankees president Randy Levine told New York talk-show host Michael Kay. “Forget blaming people or yelling at people or being mad at people. We need to get this done.”

The people who own teams and run the sport are unapologetically arrogant in their willingness to keep the game away from the fans and the low-wage workers who depend on a baseball season for financial survival.

The poor saps like me – who still believe that baseball can be a soothing presence, in fulfillment of the sport’s longtime role in the culture – could use the normalcy of routine in a 162-game schedule. And the jolts of excitement over big trades and free-agent signings. And just the sounds and the scents at the ballpark. MLB continues to deny their customers the joy of these simple pleasures.

As the Washington Post points out:

“There certainly hasn’t been much baseball to enjoy. Since the Washington Nationals won Game 7 of the 2019 World Series at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, the calendar has flipped to a new month 29 times, and only 12 of those months have included meaningful big league baseball games. Three months in 2020 were lost to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting labor squabble that reduced that season to 60 games, capped by a neutral-site World Series.”

After the prolonged agony of Covid, and during a time when many in our nation are unnerved and sickened by the horrifying scenes in Ukraine, MLB remains missing, with no real regrets or a genuine sign of conscience.

If there is no regular–season ball played in April, fans will have endured 2½ years since the last normal season. Think about that. A sport that has been praised if not revered for many decades in appreciation of its almost constant presence in our lives is out of touch, out of sight and really doesn’t care.

Meanwhile, the NFL continues to dominate the headlines and the buzz and strengthen its place as the No. 1 spectator sport in America. While the baseball owners and players were doing their usual huffing and puffing on Tuesday, the NFL had news to share: quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed a bigly contract to stay with the Green Bay Packers, and the Seattle Seahawks traded QB Russell Wilson to Denver in a blockbuster deal that reverberated from coast to coast. The movements of the league’s QB Carousel will control sports-news cycles for weeks, with fans and media chirping in excitement.

And MLB? They got NOTHING for us.

If this senseless standoff continues, the MLB insensitivity will reach another level soon. Extremely prominent on the calendar is April 15 and the planned celebration of Jackie Robinson Day — which this year marks the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. How low will the owners and commissioner Rob Manfred go?

Make a deal, men. You’ve won. The players have lost. Claim your victory. There’s no reason to continue to damage your own game, and lose fans.

Thanks for reading.

–Bernie

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.