Major League Baseball has requested that the California Rangers and Oakland Athletics “cease and desist” their plans to relocate, according to a lawsuit filed by MLB. The league is seeking an injunction to try and block the move until any legal issues are resolved.
The “mlb trade rumors” is a news story that the MLB is requesting mediation. The MLB has requested mediation because they want to avoid being sued by players and teams.
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With the MLB lockout, which began on December 2 and is now in its third month, Major League Baseball sought federal mediation on Thursday, which might have injected a neutral third party into discussions. The MLB Players Association rejected the proposal, arguing that “getting back to the table is the clearest route to a fair and timely resolution.”
Where does the attempt at mediation leave negotiations? Could this create even more hostility between the two sides? And what does it all mean for the big question: When will we actually see Major League Baseball players on the field? We enlisted ESPN MLB experts Passan, Jeff and Rogers, Jesse to sort it all out.
On Thursday, the league contacted the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. What exactly does it imply?
A mediator is a neutral third person whose objective is to assist two parties in a labor dispute in reaching an agreement on problems that are hindering a resolution. The FMCS is a federal agency that may assist in labor conflicts like as the MLB lockout, but it requires both sides to consent to mediation. The role of a mediator is not to negotiate an agreement or to enforce any restrictions. Mediators are not arbitrators who hear all sides of a dispute and make a decision. The best successful mediation helps two parties go to areas they couldn’t get to on their own.
Is this anything you’ve seen before?
It occurs often in labor conflicts. During the 1981 and 1994 MLB strikes, a mediator was engaged. Ken Moffett, the mediator, negotiated with both sides during the 50-day strike in 1981, eventually becoming executive director of the MLB Players Association before being dismissed less than a year later. Bill Usery, a mediator, was unsuccessful in bringing the sides to an agreement during the 1994 strike that resulted in the World Series being canceled.
There have been successes in mediation, even when it hasn’t led to an agreement — before the 2011 NFL lockout, 16 days of mediation resulted in the union disbanding and the players filing a federal lawsuit against the league; later that year, three days of mediation in NBA talks failed to break the impasse — Scot Beckenbaugh, an FCMS mediator, worked with the NHL in 2013 and received widespread appreciation for his efforts. If the parties ever begin the process, Beckenbaugh, who still has a high-profile job at the FCMS, might act as the mediator.
Why would the league seek a mediator when it was the one who put the lockout in place?
There could be a number of reasons for this. It’s possible that MLB is just annoyed. If the league thinks it has addressed most, if not all, of the union’s issues but has been unable to reach an agreement via normal discussions, it may seek assistance from a third party. If the union agrees and the mediation fails, the sides may be forced to play the regular season without an agreement, which may raise doubts among players who start being paid on Opening Day. At that moment, the league may expect that certain members of the union would press the league’s leadership to reach an agreement.
It’s also possible that the move is more tactical. Players have pointed out that this happened only days after the league agreed to provide the union with a new plan. The league claims they pledged a reaction, not a counterproposal, and that their answer was to request a mediator. If the public views the players’ refusal of third-party assistance as a form of obstructionism, it might benefit the league in the public relations war over the lockout.
What was the reason for the union’s refusal?
For a union seeking considerable change, there may be a fear that the mediator may take the most recent collective bargaining agreement as a benchmark and offer something more similar to the status quo. That would be OK with the owners.
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Also, if the union believes that development with a third party is unlikely, wasting time may not be in its best interests. The history of baseball mediation hasn’t been very productive, raising doubts about a mediator’s capacity to bridge what is presently a significant divide between the parties.
Is the union’s rejection of a mediator going to push the discussions back much more?
Certainly not. If one side, in this example the union, feels a mediator will not be helpful, it may be a good thing. From scheduling the mediation through the sessions itself, the procedure might easily turn out to be a waste of time. Is it possible that the rejection would cause resentment between the two parties? Maybe, but it’s not like there isn’t already a lot of animosity. It is fully within any party’s rights to refuse to hire a mediator.
What happens to the sides now?
They’ve been in the same location for over a year of negotiations: nowhere good. Both sides’ displeasure is palpable, as seen by the previous two negotiation rounds. The league announced ten days ago that it was receptive to a pre-arbitration bonus pool suggested by the union, but only provided $10 million instead of the $105 million asked by the players. The union revised its offer… to $100 million in a counter offer a week later.
With spring training starting in 112 weeks, spending $5 million or $10 million at a time on one problem while leaving at least a half-dozen other important issues unaddressed is not a prescription for success. Perhaps a mediator will be called in at some point, but the union feels that time is not now, and that view is enough to rule out the option.
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