HOUSTON — Beyond the excitement of the 2021 World Series lurks the anxiety over exactly when the next meaningful baseball game will occur once the Fall Classic is over.
To that end, the sport’s two most powerful people put on their best happy faces Tuesday.
Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement will expire on Dec. 1, and despite the acrimony between the players and owners that has surged since the last CBA five years ago, commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark voiced optimism a new deal would get done on time. That would allow MLB to avoid an owners’ lockout that would essentially freeze the Hot Stove League.
“I am a believer in the process,” Manfred said at Minute Maid Park, before Game 1 of the World Series. “We’re meeting on a regular basis and I’m hopeful we find a way to get an agreement by Dec. 1.”
Said Clark: “We are having sessions formally and informally at this point. It is interesting as to the timing of that particular issue to the extent that there is a desire to find common ground. We still have that desire to the extent that there are a number of issues that we have worked through and some we’re going to continue to work through, we will. At this point, we have taken advantage of the days that we had post-All Star Game and we anticipate taking advantage of the days leading up to and through the expiration.”
When The Post attempted to cut to the chase and suggested that meant Clark felt good about the talks, the former Yankee and Met responded, “I’m always a glass half-full guy.”
Nevertheless, you’d have to go back to 2002 to find such pessimism surrounding a deal getting done in a timely manner. That comes from the ill will that has repeatedly resurfaced between the two sides and revealed itself in the summer of 2020 when the players and owners struggled to agree on the terms for a COVID-shortened schedule. They exchanged public barbs, threats and tweets before finally settling down.
The threat of a lockout could lead to a flurry of November activity, in anticipation of a quiet period. Then, if the two sides take months to sign off on a deal, it could create a late surge for other free agents right before spring training (which could be delayed if peace talks take too long).
Manfred and Clark also checked in on a couple of tangential matters:
Time and pace of game and rule changes. Manfred, referring to the agreement that allows him to unilaterally sign off on rule changes as long as he gives the players a year’s heads-up, said: “I want to be really clear: We have rights under the agreement to do certain things with a certain process that’s been followed. There’s going to come a point in time where the pressure to make change is going to be sufficient. I prefer to do it by reaching an agreement with the players.
“The length of the game is a funny number for me. I will say this: I think that we are at a point in time where we should make every effort to put the best form of baseball on the field for our fans.”
Manfred can implement the usage of a pitch clock, to which major league players have objected.
Said Clark: “Although no proposal has been made yet on on-field rules, we are aware of the rules that have been implemented at the minor league level. We are aware of the rule changes that were made in independent ball. And we’re obviously aware of the considerations made in the fall league and we’re having discussions with the players in each of those places to make sure that we understand and appreciate more than what a particular stat sheet says about how they are affecting the game on the field.”
Without getting specific on any of the innovations, Clark said, “[T]he experience in some instances has been less than favorable. It’s all dialogue we’re looking forward to having.”
The Tomahawk Chop. The chant at Braves games will enjoy its first national platform since 1999, the last time the Braves qualified for the World Series.
“I think that it’s important to understand that we have 30 markets around the country. They’re not all the same,” Manfred said. “The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community. The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves’ program, including the Chop. For me, that’s kind of the end of the story. In that market, taking into account the Native American community, it works.”
Clark, less committal, said: “My experience has been, particularly with any issue that is a social issue, an issue that … as we’ve seen in Atlanta, is worthy of some dialogue. I know that there are certain things that as a black man resonate with me and we’ll assume that there are instances that resonate with others and to the extent that’s one of them, that’s where we should have some dialogue.”
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