The Month That Was in Baseball: February 2022
Negotiations Go Extra Innings Between Owners and Players on a New CBA
Eric Kay, Fallen Angel • Ryan Zimmerman Steps Down
Tuesday, February 1
Reps for Major League Baseball players and owners meet for an hour and a half, with little progress is made amid reports of a “heated” atmosphere. With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring Training in two weeks, optimism is quickly eroding that the lockout can come to an end without a disruption of the exhibition season, which begins on February 25.
Wednesday, February 2
Another jersey number is given the retirement treatment, as Will Clark’s #22 uniform will be shelved by the San Francisco Giants, the team he played and starred for from 1986-93. An official ceremony to retire Clark’s number will take place before the scheduled July 30 game at Oracle Park against the Chicago Cubs—the team Clark tormented during the 1989 NLCS.
Thursday, February 3
In a curious move, MLB is seeking a Federal mediator to help solve the chasm between owners and players and end the two-month-old lockout. The union needs to approve of the mediator’s presence; they decline to comment on MLB’s request.
The two Triple-A leagues (East and West) will increase their schedule from 144 games to 150 this coming season. It will be the most games played by a minor league circuit since 1964, when the International League and Pacific Coast League played 154 and 156 games, respectively. That’s still a far cry from the PCL’s early days, when up to 200 games were commonly played; in 1905, the San Francisco Seals played a whopping 230 contests.
Friday, February 4
A day after MLB owners requested a Federal mediator to help end the lockout, the players’ union say no thanks, citing that the two sides are too far apart to let an independent outsider figure things out. The players would rather have the two sides get back to the table and negotiate one-on-one without a labor referee—and not lose leverage they likely believe is sure to be stripped down should a mediator step in. To quote reliever and player rep Zack Britton on Twitter: “When attempting to negotiate a collectively bargained agreement…‘bargaining’ is required.”
It now appears certain that Spring Training will be delayed. The question becomes: Can Opening Day be saved?
Just because the lockout continues and that Spring Training is imperiled doesn’t mean that Spring Training won’t take place. It likely will proceed as scheduled; it’s just that there may not be any major leaguers present. What it does mean is that minor leaguers, who are not members of the players’ union, will be allowed to report near the end of this month. Meanwhile, the minor league season is expected to start on schedule, lockout or no. The people expected to be between a rock and a hard place are members of MLB teams’ 40-man rosters who, under normal circumstances, are expected to begin the season in the minors—but because they’re technically members of the union, they would be barred from performing. Just something to keep in mind as the lockout drags on.
Monday, February 7
A few days after the players’ union rejected the presence of a Federal mediator in talks with MLB owners, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh says he would like to get involved in helping to end the lockout. Chances are that the union will say no to Walsh’s offer for the same reason that they said no to a mediator: Because the owners have budged so little on their negotiating position, and thus the union doesn’t see an outsider trying to get the two sides to ‘meet in the middle.’
Because major league players are barred from any contact with MLB personnel—whether they be coaches, brass or other employees—they have not been tested for any PEDs since the start of the lockout. It’s likely that once a new Basic Agreement is finally approved by both sides, the testing will resume. But anti-doping officials worry that players could use this vacuum of testing to discreetly get on the juice. “You could easily do what the cyclists were doing even in a good testing program, which was microdosing of testosterone,” says U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart to the Associated Press. “You can do testosterone gels or oral pills that could be out of your system and you can do more in maybe weeks.”
Tuesday, February 8
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer has the sexual assault charges against him dropped by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which writes: “After a thorough review of all the available evidence, including the civil restraining order proceedings, witness statements and the physical evidence, the People are unable to prove the relevant charges beyond a reasonable doubt.” Bauer has always maintained that the encounter he had with the female plaintiff was consensual—and the D.A. perhaps agrees, based on the evidence.
This does not mean that Bauer is completely out of the woods as far as his near-term baseball future is concerned; MLB still will decide if Bauer’s actions, consensual or not, rises to the level of abuse that could warrant a suspension. One might reasonably think that Bauer’s three months of paid administrative leave after the allegations surfaced last summer could be considered ‘time served.’
Colorado manager Bud Black has his contract extended through 2023, meaning he’ll be at the very least paid through seven straight seasons by the Rockies. Black heads into the 2022 season with a career 998-1,072 record as manager, having also skippered the San Diego Padres from 2007-15.
Gerald Williams, a 14-year major leaguer who played for five different teams and three playoff rosters, dies at the age of 55 after a bout with cancer. The news of his passing is sent via tweet from Derek Jeter, a brief teammate of Williams with the 1996 Yankees. The New Orleans native collected 780 career hits, 85 home runs and 106 steals; his most productive year took place in 2000 when he batted .274 with 21 home runs, 89 RBIs and 30 doubles for Tampa Bay.
Wednesday, February 9
Jeremy Giambi, the younger brother of former MVP Jason Giambi and a part of one baseball’s most memorable plays, commits suicide in his parents’ Southern California home. Giambi played in the majors from 1998-2003, hitting .263 with 52 career home runs over 1,417 at-bats for four different teams. One of those was with the Oakland A’s, sharing the same roster as his star brother. The San Jose-born outfielder/DH is primarily remembered for two things—neither of them flattering. He was the baserunner tagged out—standing up when he should have slid—on Derek Jeter’s famed relay “flip” to home during the 2001 ALCS, turning the series around for the Yankees against the A’s. Along with his brother, he also admitted to taking steroids from BALCO, the notorious “nutritional” lab that also provided steroids to Barry Bonds.
There’s nothing more to add to this except this phone number: 1-800-273-8255. This is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the number to call if you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts. Life can be tough, but in tough times everyone has friends and/or someone they can lean on, even if they don’t realize it.
Thursday, February 10
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred faces the press as three days of scheduled owners meetings come to a close in Orlando. He says the following: That missing games due to the lockout would be a “disastrous outcome,” that MLB has a new proposal it will offer to the union with a universal DH and draft lottery, calls media and social media criticism of him “tactical,” and responds to the owners’ perceived lack of urgency by stating that “phones work two ways.” Manfred also pushes back on the idea that major league franchises aren’t quite the investment everyone thinks it is, stunningly suggesting that “historically, (the return on investment) is below what you’d expect to get in the stock market.”
Saturday, February 12
MLB owners present their latest proposal to end the lockout of players, issuing a 130-page document that only mildly sweetens the pot. The union is reportedly underwhelmed by the proposal and the meeting between the two sides lasts less than an hour—though some don’t see that timeframe as alarmist, given there are no negotiations expected beyond the presentation of the owners’ proposal.
The Chicago White Sox announce that they will make vaccines and boosters mandatory for their minor leaguers as Spring Training commences without major leaguers. The minor leaguers will have to comply, unless a legal complaint of some kind is filed; the players’ union does not include those outside MLB teams’ 40-man rosters as major leaguers, and thus are not part of the union.
Sunday, February 13
Calvin Jones, the #1 pick in the 1984 MLB draft, dies after a battle with cancer at age 58. The Seattle Mariners chose the right-handed pitcher as their top pick, and it took him seven years to plod through the minors before finally making it to the parent club. But he couldn’t stick; he played parts of two seasons with Seattle, posting a 5-7 record and 4.33 ERA over 65 appearances. After returning to the minors, Jones continued playing for another 10 years, bouncing from Triple-A to Taiwan to Mexico. Once he put away his glove, he switched over to scouting—where he helped land Clayton Kershaw with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Tuesday, February 15
Whenever the season begins, the Washington Nationals will not have Ryan Zimmerman on their roster for the first time since moving from Montreal. The 37-year-old first baseman, the all-time franchise leader (Expos and Nationals) in runs (963), hits (1,846), doubles (417), home runs (284) and RBIs (1,061), has decided to retire from the game. Zimmerman is a two-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger and owner of a Gold Glove. He was at his peak during his early years—and just when it appeared he would fade away for good, he had a spectacular vintage campaign in 2017, hitting .303 with a career-high 36 homers and 108 RBIs. Two years later, he hit the first round-tripper in Nationals World Series history, helping to lead Washington to a seven-game upset of the favored Houston Astros.
The Fort Worth, Texas trial of former Los Angeles Angels employee Eric Kay in the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs has its most dramatic day since its start last week, as four former Angels admit to taking opioids and other drugs from Kay. The most self-damning testimony comes from pitcher Matt Harvey, who does not follow through on an earlier vow to plead the Fifth and says he distributed drugs to Skaggs—while also stating that he was a cocaine user through 2019. Also admitting their involvement between Kay and Skaggs is current Colorado first baseman C.J. Cron, and currently unclaimed pitchers Mike Morin and Cam Bedrosian. After Skaggs’ widow Carli Skaggs gives a tearful testimony from the stand, the prosecution rests. The defense for Kay opens its case tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 16
If the Nationals are trying to keep star phenom Juan Soto for the long term, $350 million won’t cut it. Soto claims that just before the start of the lockout, he received a 13-year offer worth that much moola from the Nationals—and turned it down. One reason for the thanks-no-thanks: Soto’s agent Scott Boras, who will undoubtedly set out to wring as much money on a long-term deal from the Nationals—or perhaps any other team, actual or imagined—should Soto become a free agent after the 2024 season.
The defense begins its case—and rests it—all within a day in the trial of former Angels executive Eric Kay, who is accused of suppling the opioids that killed pitcher Tyler Skaggs in 2019. The goal is to absolve Kay of his alleged crimes, though the answers they try to wring out of three witnesses—pitcher Blake Parker (who also obtained opioids from Kay) and former Angels Andrelton Simmons and Trevor Cahill (brought in to talk about Skaggs’ final night) may not be enough to sway a jury perhaps impressed by the prosecution’s case.
Thursday, February 17
After four days of rest, MLB owners and players meet again and, once more, produces only glacial movement toward a new Basic Agreement. But the heat appears to be intensifying in regards to timing; MLB tells the union that a deal needs to be reached by February 28—11 days from now—to ensure that the regular season will begin as scheduled on March 31. Also, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets that the two sides will begin “daily” negotiations starting on February 21.
It takes only an hour for the jury in Fort Worth, Texas to come to a verdict in the trial against former Angels exec Eric Kay. That verdict: Guilty, on distribution of opioids to pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died as a result of them on July 1, 2019. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 20 years; sentencing will take place on June 28.
Friday, February 18
MLB officially postpones all Spring Training games from February 25 through March 5—nine days in total—because of the continuing lockout, as the urgency factor appears to be ramping up with regular season openers on March 31 in jeopardy if an agreement is not reached soon. It’s verified that MLB has told the union that a deal must be made by February 28 to avoid that scenario.
There may be another reason why MLB wants to get a deal done by the end of the month. On March 1, an auto-renew will kick in for the roughly three million subscribers to mlb.tv, netting the league nearly half a billion dollars. Not a lot of people know about that date, but it’s being communicated through social media circles as a reminder to those who may want to dump the app for games that may never be played, should the work stoppage linger into April and beyond.
Monday, February 21
MLB owners and players began what is hoped to be the stretch run in negotiations on a new Basic Agreement—and they seem to take the urgency seriously, meeting for a marathon five hours (with breaks) at the spring training complex for both the Cardinals and Marlins in Jupiter, Florida. There is no breakthrough, just continued incremental movement toward an acceptable median; but more problematic, there’s no budging (or perhaps even conversation) in what is rapidly becoming the biggest elephant in the room: The luxury tax threshold. The union wants to raise it to $245 million, while MLB is seeking an increase to $216 million.
Tuesday, February 22
A second straight full day of negotiations between MLB owners and players produce a second straight day of little movement toward a new Basic Agreement. At one point, the owners make an “informal” request to bring in a mediator—but the union, as it did the first time, quickly rejects the idea.
Wednesday, February 23
Another day, another round of post-negotiating grumbling about how little the other side is budging in continuing talks between MLB players and owners in Florida. At the end of the session, MLB releases a statement confirming—hardening, some might say—their position that regular season games will be cancelled and not made up if a deal is not agreed to by February 28.
Julio Cruz, a 10-year second baseman who was an original member of the Seattle Mariners and later the team’s Spanish-language broadcaster, passes away at the age of 67. The Brooklyn-born Cruz was on the Mariners’ first roster in 1977, staying in Seattle until being traded to the White Sox midway through 1983; he remained in Chicago through 1986. Offensively, Cruz was not a big threat—but once he reached base, he showed off his speed with 343 career steals—including 40 or more over six straight seasons, topped by 59 in 1978.
Friday, February 25
On the day that the first Spring Training games of 2022 were supposed to be played, talks continue between owners and players at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida with a new participant: MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who joins in on the shuffling back-and-forth between both sides. At the end of the day, there reportedly is significant progress on one issue: The draft lottery. That leaves three more days to concentrate on the other issues slowing up an agreement before MLB begins to cancel regular season games. Meanwhile, MLB announces that three additional days of Spring Training games will be cancelled, meaning that the earliest that the exhibition season can start is now March 8.
Saturday, February 26
A day after it appeared that MLB owners and players were softening their hardline stances, doom and gloom returns to the negotiating table as the union makes a new proposal with slightly more give than in previous sessions. And yet the owners are not impressed, leaving the union so angry that it considers ending negotiations altogether. But cooler heads appear to prevail, and negotiations will continue.
One of the more interesting side issues revealed in talks is that MLB wants a new provision in which any new “on-field” rule can be put in place by the league within as little as 45 days—as opposed to the current standard of waiting until the following season. The powers-that-be behind this suggestion would be made up of a group comprised of six MLB officials, two union reps and an umpire. The union reportedly is not impressed.
Brett Netzer, Boston’s third-round pick in 2017 who was last seen in pro ball at the Double-A level in 2019, is officially released by the Red Sox after stirring up a Twitter storm which included hits at black people, transgenders and Jewish people—the latter an apparent hit on Sox exec Chaim Bloom. Even after being let go, Netzer—frequently relying on his alleged Christian faith—is unapologetic, telling a responder, “I am a racist.” Netzer was suspended all of last season for reasons that the Red Sox will not disclose.
Monday, February 28
On the day MLB set its self-imposed deadline for canceling games if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is not finalized, owners and players negotiate from mid-morning to well after midnight with significant progress—enough that MLB extends its ‘deadline’ by one day. The sides are drawing closer on remaining issues. The luxury tax threshold gap is now $10 million, whereas a week earlier it was $30 million. The minimum salary gap is a mere $25,000. The bonus pool for pre-arbitration players is nearing a mutual medium. And an international draft beckons. One thing reportedly agreed to shortly before midnight is an expanded postseason—but to 12 teams, not the 14 the owners want. The union stick to their guns on 12. The owners said 12 is fine—but it will mean a lower minimum salary and less money thrown into the pre-arbitration pool, two other issues that the sides have been battling over.
Derek Jeter is stepping away as part-owner and CEO of the Miami Marlins, stating that although “through hard work, trust and accountability, we transformed every aspect of the franchise” after joining the Marlins in 2017, “the vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead.” This suggests that Jeter was at odds with majority owner Bruce Sherman as the team continues to struggle both on the field and at the gate, despite a beautiful new ballpark.
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