After two weeks of mildly encouraging updates on the MLB lockout talks, momentum seemingly has slowed to a crawl, as the league has requested federal mediation to resolve the lockout that it voluntarily instituted back in December. That news was reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Major League Baseball today requested immediate assistance of a federal mediator to help resolve the sport’s lockout, sources told ESPN. Under their request, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service would help assist with the proceedings.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 3, 2022
Additionally, the league has gone back on its previous pledge to make a counter offer to the proposal the union presented Tuesday, per The Athletic’s Evan Drellich. That seemingly leaves negotiations dead in the water for the time being, and with the MLBPA expected to reject mediation from a third party, it’s hard to know what might cause talks to pick back up.
Sources: MLB has told the MLBPA it will not make a counter offer after MLB two days ago saying it would.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 3, 2022
Two other major pro leagues have enlisted the services of a federal mediator in the not-too-distant past, and it hasn’t led to a quick resolution in either case. The NBA and NBAPA agreed to mediation in October 2011 and didn’t agree to a new CBA for nearly two more months. The NHL and NHLPA got a mediator involved in November 2012 and didn’t reach a resolution until five weeks later. While it’s been nearly three decades since MLB and the union went through mediation, they didn’t have a pleasant experience while going through the process during the strike of 1994-95, as Drellich pointed out Thursday.
Former MLBPA head Don Fehr, in 2019, on mediation in 1994-95: "It was a joke. It had no value. And there were all kind of agendas at work in the mediation that had nothing to do with the agendas of the parties trying to resolve the dispute.” Manfred below https://t.co/m4LqU25yF5 pic.twitter.com/yO247XYYgq— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 3, 2022
Even if MLB and the MLBPA ultimately agree to mediation, it doesn't seem as if the process would be likely to increase the chances of the season starting on time.
The league and union have had only four formal negotiation sessions — three in person and another that was held virtually. Talks didn’t start until roughly six weeks into the lockout, so MLB evidently determined very quickly into its discussions with the union that it was going to need to alter its strategy.
Spring training camps are scheduled to open in less than two weeks, and they’ll almost certainly be delayed. Considering the current pace of the negotiations, it looks like spring training games — and maybe even regular-season games — are in serious jeopardy of being delayed or wiped out entirely.