An Equality of Discontent

Updated: April 4, 2018

Randy Teller, Baseball America

Asheville, North CarolinaNovember 13, 2026: Today the Planetary Extreme Baseball Alliance (PEBA) head office announced the completion of a working agreement between the owners group and players union that will take effect for the 2027 season. Far from being the hoped-for long term collective bargaining agreement that was the goal of negotiations at the outset, this stop-gap agreement will need to be renegotiated next winter. “This is a compromise agreement that gets us through next season,” said PEBA commissioner Morris Ragland. “I know there are a number of parties on both sides who walk away from the table disappointed, but that’s really the essence of compromise. It isn’t going to please anyone completely.”

“The games will go on,” has been the mantra of league executives, but there are issues that remain and points of contention that will have to wait another year for resolution. Drew Streets, owner of the Florida Featherheads and lead negotiator for the owners group, stated publicly this morning that, “while we are happy that a work stoppage has been avoided, and there have been some very, very modest steps toward a freer salary negotiation environment, we would have liked to have seen more progress made to protect freedom of contract in this league. There remain significant restraints on our clubs’ abilities to negotiate fair and rational compensation with individual players.” The ownership group has worked hard to curb what it says are unrealistic salary expectations on the part of the players.

The Planetary Extreme Baseball Alliance Players Association (PEBAPA) has also been far from idle. The players association has turned to famed labor attorney Ricard Manjou to be its lead negotiator and strategist. Under Manjou’s leadership, the PEBAPA has expanded it’s numbers and shrunk its name,

transforming itself into the Professional Baseball Players Association (PBPA). For the first time, a professional athletes’ union has brought minor league players into it ranks. The PBPA has also admitted players from the World Independent League, and has taken on the task of representing those players as well.

During this round of negotiations, the PBPA has lobbied hard to improve the working conditions and pay of minor league players in the PEBA and players on WIL reserve rosters, players whose interests have often been ignored in the past. The PBPA scored significant victories on this front, obtaining scaled wages for minor leaguers based on professional service time, as well as consideration for living expenses. PEBA and WIL clubs will be busy in coming months either constructing dormitories for their minor league athletes, or calculating the cost of living stipends to pay their players in addition to their regular wage.

For his part, Manjou insists that everything is still on the table for next winter’s negotiations and that the PBPA is far from satisfied with this winter’s agreement. The players union has stated that it is most concerned with current labor practices in the PEBA that are artificially suppressing salaries for free agents and young players alike. The union is taking dead aim at free agent draft pick compensation, league minimum salaries, and the number of years players are cost-controlled, and Manjou has on a number of occasions said that a strike is not out of the question. “Baseball, for Americans, is called the national pastime. Well, labor strikes, for the French, are something of a national pastime as well. When I say the word strike, it is not to hear myself speak. These billionaire owners would be wise not to test our resolve in this matter,” said Manjou earlier today.

Curiously, the ownership group has not been able to present as united a front as it might wish. Traditional divisions between large and small market clubs are as evident as ever. Competitive balance is foremost on the minds of owners from the smaller market teams who fear that there may come a time when it simply won’t be possible for them to field a competitive club. These owners worry about a rise in player salaries and any diminishing of years of player cost-control, which they hold particularly dear and view as key to their ability to build a winning roster.

Sources say that there is also a faction of several owners who are advocating a hard line in future negotiations. This group has pushed for a removal of all restraints on contract formation in the PEBA. They complain bitterly about what they term ‘socialized baseball’ and have expressed a willingness to not only walk away from the negotiating table, but walk away from the alliance itself, moving their teams to the WIL as other owners have done. How much this talk is merely bluff is unclear. The WIL is hardly a greener pasture from a revenue standpoint, but it remains the only alternative to competing in the PEBA.

Moreover, it appears that the Manjou-lead PBPA has outmaneuvered these owners to some extent. “We have headed these brigands off at the pass, to use an American phrase,” says Manjou. The PBPA has already successfully persuaded WIL owners to reduce the service time required for free agency eligibility in that league to four years, with two years at a minimum salary equal to the PEBA’s and two years of arbitration. According to Manjou, this will facilitate the movement of the most talented young WIL players over to the PEBA, where they should command higher salaries, as they will only be forced to spend four seasons in the WIL before landing in the free agency pool. “We would very much like see this model carried over to the PEBA,” says Manjou, who calls the six year service time requirement for free agency eligibility in the PEBA an “unjust relic of Major League Baseball that none should hold sacrosanct.”

The commissioner for his part has worked to bridge the gap between the two sides. His is a curious position. The commissioner of the PEBA serves at the pleasure of both the owners and the players, and is meant to be a neutral party and honest mediator between the two. Some eyebrows were raised, however, when he shepherded through an agreement that saw players give up several protections and guarantees. “In any change of the contract negotiation framework, there will be individual winners and losers. We’ve tried to step back and take in the broader picture. Alliance clubs are currently spending 73% of revenue on player salaries. I’m confident that with these new rules, that portion of revenue going to player pay will hold around the 70% mark. The PEBA is a very competitive environment and clubs are very motivated to spend money to improve their squads, and I believe the players will continue to benefit from that,” says the commissioner. “We’ll keep an eye on the situation, of course, and future contracts will continue to be vetted. We’re optimistic that the players will in the end find the terms of this agreement acceptable.”

He may be the only optimist in the room, however. If both sides of the issue continue to set a belligerent tone, it would be surprising if a long-term deal will get done in time for 2028. Next up are the winter meetings, which should make for interesting reporting this year.