Unlocking MLB: How owners, players can reach agreement to play ball

Probably, straightening out Major League Baseball ranks as harder than armchair labor lawyers like yours truly portray it.

Definitely, it should be easier than the actual negotiating parties make it seem.

MLB and its Players Association find themselves so dysfunctional — virtually nothing has happened in the month-plus since Rob Manfred shut down the sport with a Dec. 2 lockout — that it doesn’t feel alarmist to already wonder whether the season will start on time, March 31. The notion of spring training beginning in mid-February appears as far-flung a fantasy as Michigan’s football team winning a national championship anytime soon.

It doesn’t help that the principals for the two sides truly loathe each other, nor that Manfred faces the standard commissioner’s challenge of corralling his owners (big-market, mid-market and small-market) into a unified front, nor that the union got routed by the equivalent of a 92-4 basketball score in the last collective bargaining agreement in 2016.

After surveying folks from both sides of the aisle, here’s this armchair labor lawyer’s attempt to get the sport back on track.

1. Payroll floors

This shall be my capstone, an underrated and underappreciated device that can address the players’ concerns about competitive balance as well as fair compensation for players in their 30s. Earlier in this round of bargaining, the clubs proposed payroll floors of $100 million in return for a payroll tax beginning at the $180 million level (exempt from bells…

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