Everything we’ve seen thus far suggests MLB owners want to test the players. That they intend to wait out the players as long as possible, to see if they’ll crack under the threat of losing paychecks.
This lockout strategy at the commissioner’s office appears designed around one goal: minimizing how much owners have to give up. If you, as an owner, wait until the last minute, players might grow impatient, and you can surrender less than you would otherwise. Or if the players totally crumble, maybe you part with close to nothing. And if the players stand tall? Well, at least you didn’t give up any more than you had to, any sooner than you had to.
What ownership’s approach means for players is that if they really want change — if after all these years of complaints about the status quo, the players are serious about achieving their goals — they will have to force owners to make it.
If you accept the premise that the players failed in the last round of negotiations (or two), then a significant part of that failure was owed to their acquiescence. Players didn’t push hard enough. What players have done thus far in these talks, then, is correct course: They have been willing to tell the owners, repeatedly, “this is not good enough.” And it’s worth noting, in real time, what happens when players choose the alternative path: the owners greeted the players in December with a lockout, and there’s been virtually no progress since.
That is not to say players will not or should not move off their own positions at all. Neither side has come close to a bottom-line proposal. But the players have, at least, been direct with their messaging: we need more than the league is offering.