Although the San Diego Padres have made tickets available for the 2022 season, there’s no guarantee that the games will begin on time. Minor disagreements have been worked out between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Union, but multiple issues remain. With the exception of the 2020 COVID-shortened season, baseball has not been as seriously threatened since the 1994-95 player’s strike.
Every day that passes without significant movement jeopardizes the beginning of the season for a sport already losing fans. The 2020 World Series featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays had the second-lowest television rating in the history of the sport. In fact, Game One was viewed by the lowest group of fans ever.
For the Padres, the shutdown comes at a crucial time, as the team has a new manager and a largely unfamiliar coaching staff. Despite big moves made by team president and general manager A.J. Preller in the past few years, the only playoff appearance occurred during the COVID-reduced mini-season of 60 games. According to the front office, the Padres lost $100 million in 2020.
Still, the following year the front office okayed expenditures far above the norm for the San Diego baseball team. Historically the Padres have ranked in the middle in terms of payroll during the best of times and more often resided toward the bottom. In fact, in 2010, the team’s players were paid $38.025 million in total. Only two teams landed above the 210 million luxury tax threshold last year: the Dodgers ($285.6 million) and (surprise, surprise) the Padres ($216.5 million), who paid penalties of $32.65 and $1.29 million, respectively.
The Padres stayed in contention for the first three months of the 2021 season despite competing against two powerful, playoff-bound division rivals—the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. However, the team cratered in the latter months ending with a 79-83 record and a third-place division finish.
No doubt, after last year’s meltdown, everyone involved in the 2021 season is looking forward to starting anew. The team has multiple issues to address, including the disappointing performances of prize pitchers Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and rookie Ryan Weathers. Other issues include Fernando Tatis Jr.’s left shoulder, the lack of a closer, the elbows for Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, and Mike Clevinger, and the offensive development of Ha-Seong Kim.
The surplus of catchers, the configuration of the outfield, especially in right and left, and the disappointing development of formerly high-ranked players like pitcher MacKenzie Gore are other issues that need to be addressed.
One of the team’s top priorities has been to work out a trade of first baseman Eric Hosmer and to lose what is left of his hefty contract, but that too remains on hold, further damaging the relationship between the front office and player. Plus, a four-year, $20 million deal for pitcher Nick Martinez’s services has yet to be completed.
Thanks to the Padres’ pressing needs, the lack of progress in negotiations is especially frustrating. The warring parties have had more than two months to iron out their differences with few substantive results. Meanwhile, time slips away for the two sides to work out their differences before spring training games begin on February 26. Even more worrisome, pitchers and catchers are due to report the second week of February.
When he announced the lockout, Rob Manfred wrote a letter to fans insisting that the move would “jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.” However, it took more than forty days for the league to actually present a proposal to the players.
Recently Manfred floated the idea that a federal mediator should be brought in to help the two sides work out their differences. The players rejected the plan, partly because of past experience.
During the 1994 strike, the two sides accepted mediation, but that failed to resolve their issues. Also, mediation tends to “split the baby,” which could benefit the owners at the expense of the players and give the league ammunition to turn fans against the players.
The MLBPA reacted to the suggestion with this statement, “Two months after their lockout, and just two days after committing to players that a counterproposal would be made, the owners refused to make a counter, and instead requested mediation.”
For the first time, a work stoppage has occurred during the social media era, and players have wasted no time venting. Pitcher Max Scherzer has been relentless in posting his displeasure with the current situation.
We want a system where threshold and penalties don’t function as caps, allows younger players to realize more of their market value, makes service time manipulation a thing of the past, and eliminate tanking as a winning strategy.
— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) February 4, 2022
Every day that passes without a resolution between baseball’s owners and players threatens the season and the fortunes of the San Diego Padres.