Likes and Dislikes About the New MLB CBA

(Antonio Wolfe/Gold Lot Sports)


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Major League Baseball’s owners and the Player’s Association agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement yesterday, and it was ratified around 6PM. This is fantastic news for baseball fans around the country and here in Pittsburgh.  Opening Day for the Pirates is scheduled for April 7th against the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium, and the home opener will be Tuesday, April 12th against the Chicago Cubs.

It will be great to have the sport back this spring, but as details of the agreement started to flood our Twitter timelines, there are certainly items that I like, but also items that I dislike, about the new agreement.

Dislikes

I wanted to start with the dislikes solely because the overall deal did nothing to change the financial issues in baseball.  Specifically, the financial issues that will keep teams like the Pirates at a disadvantage.  In this agreement, the Collective Bargaining Tax threshold was raised and will continue to raise over time.  There was not even a squeak of a salary cap or salary floor during negotiations.  The financial discrepancy among larger markets and smaller markets will continue to grow under this new agreement. 

They also instituted a draft lottery for the first six picks.  While I do not dislike the lottery, per se, I do not like the one nuance they added to try and prevent teams from tanking.  The rule is that if a team is in the top 6 draft spots two seasons in a row, they will automatically be moved to the 10th spot, or worse, in the draft the next season. 

While I do like the lottery to try and prevent tanking, it typically doesn’t work.  Also, the only way teams like the Pirates can get high profile players is through the draft.  Punishing them for being terrible two seasons in a row won’t really do anything other than make it more likely they’ll be terrible three or four seasons in a row.  If anything, it makes a team worse for longer.

The deal also implemented an expanded playoff system.  While this could make teams more competitive later into the season, it decreases the value of a 162-game regular season.  If the sheer length of the season is meant to weed out those that don’t belong in the postseason, expanding it mitigates that goal.  There’s a reason in baseball they have a champagne shower for a postseason berth.  It’s supposed to be difficult to achieve.

My least favorite nuance of the new deal, aside from it accomplishing little to decrease the financial gap, is in 2023 they are banning the shift.  I have not found specifics to this just yet, but I do not like forcing players to start in a spot on the field, aside from the pitcher and catcher.  Traditional positions were really just created because it was the assumed best spot for players to stand and cover the most ground defensively. 

These mandates will just reward those hitters who never hit the ball the opposite way because they are constantly trying to pull homers over the fence.  The true ability to hit is gone in Major League Baseball.  This new rule will just further encourage that.

Likes

Now for the good news!  Baseball is back!

The thing I like the most about the new deal is that, starting in 2023, every team will have at least one series against every other team in the league.  This will come from a decrease in divisional games.  This is a major win-win.  This allows fans to see more teams, and other stadiums if they like to travel, which is great for the exposure of baseball and fans.  We will be guaranteed one series against Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani a year instead of seeing them every three seasons.  It will also set up more West Coast teams playing during Eastern game times, further increasing the exposure of some of the best players in the league.  Coming at the cost of divisional games is also a win because seeing those teams that many times over the course of a season becomes tiresome.

The 7-inning double header, and the runner on 2nd base to start extra innings rules have been removed.  The game will go back to having 9-inning double headers and extra innings will be played as they were before 2020.  This feels more like baseball to me.  The Covid rules made it feel like a beer league softball game that just wanted to squeeze in games where they could because the lights turn off at 10 PM. 

The National League will also implement the Designated Hitter starting this season.  While I strongly disagree with implementing it this season, I am glad it is finally happening.  It had reached the point where opposing pitchers wouldn’t even bother giving the 8th hitter a pitch to hit because the pitcher was up to bat next.  It led to back-to-back inconsequential at-bats.  Now, pitchers will need to attack all hitters in the lineup and not have a free out each time through the lineup.

However, implementing it this season, instead of next, is not fair to National League teams.  American League teams already have considered who their DH will be this upcoming season, while NL teams have not.  Additionally, there has already been some free agent signings of players that may have been able to serve that role for NL teams that didn’t know they would need one.  These teams now have less than a month to figure out who will fill that role.

Also, the Pirates lucked out with the lockout cancelling this year's Rule 5 Draft.  The Pirates had left some talented prospects unprotected and they were at-risk of being snatched up by another team.  Since this was more of a consequence of the lockout than an aspect of the agreement it doesn't really pertain to this article, but it is notable for Pirate fans.

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