‘This is a horrible situation’

Randy Levine at press conference

On Day 96 of the MLB lockout, Yankees president Randy Levine became the first MLB club official to speak on the record about the lockout and its negotiations.

He spoke for just about every baseball fan off the bat.

“This is a horrible, horrible situation,” Levine said Monday on ESPN New York’s The Michael Kay Show.

Levine said that everyone involved in the negotiations shares the blame with where things in baseball currently stand.

“Everyone on the Yankees, everyone in Major League Baseball shares the blame — players, owners, executives for where we are,” said Levine. “It’s a really bad look, especially with what’s going on in the world. We all have to try, really a lot harder, to try and fix this, because we all look pretty bad.

“… We have to — all of us just have to try harder. We have to get back in the room, understand this is not about winning and losing — we’re all on same team. … We’re all on same team, all of us, we’re all one. We don’t need to be attacking each other. We need to understand what is doable, what is possible and compromise. Everyone needs to compromise because this is a really bad thing to show our fans, to show people. It’s embarrassing to be where we are.”

Levine said the players are trying to make up for the last CBA, where the popular opinion is they were taken to the woodshed. However, he feels they’re trying to get too much in this go around.

“Collective bargaining is about compromise,” Levine said. “Players are competitors, they’re about winning and losing, and I think some of the talk I’ve heard is about winning and losing. Collective bargaining is about compromise and everybody winning together growing the game.

“… Collective bargaining goes up and down. It’s incremental. You win some years, you lose some years, and when I say win or lose, that means you get that you want, you don’t get what you want, you compromise. It’s not a question of wins and losses on the scoreboard.”

Rob Manfred, surrounded by MLB and MLBPA negotiators

Rob Manfred, surrounded by MLB and MLBPA negotiators

With the players asks comes an increase in CBT, but Levine says that owners don’t have “endless money.”

“The problem that I’m hearing talking to everybody is people seem to think that there’s all this money that’s come into Major League Baseball,” Levine said. “All of this money that we’ve recouped, all of the losses from COVID, everything is back to the way it was. Well, nothing is farther from the truth. I’m speaking of the Yankees, the highest revenue team: We didn’t have fans in the stands for a year and a half. We lost television games, we lost all kinds of revenue, and baseball lost billions and billions of dollars. And players lost salary, players lost money. It was a very unfortunate circumstance. So there’s not all this new money that’s going on all throughout the system that there’s money for all aspects. Both parties have to prioritize what’s the most important thing to them and negotiate what’s the most important thing, but understanding that there’s a finite amount of money.

“… You can’t pretend that there’s all this money in the game where there just isn’t. … Nobody’s crying poverty. But what people are just saying is we need to be appropriate and proportional in how much money is out there so it’s realistic and not unrealistic.”

Despite MLB already canceling games, and possibly cancelling more, Levine said that everyone he has spoken to is very upset about games being wiped away from the schedule. He also called the theory that owners are okay with missing April games because it’s MLB’s least-profitable month a “fallacy.”

“We’re all sick to lose any games,” Levine said. “We love this game. Losing any games is bad. Each game we lose, we lose a lot of money. Each game the players lose, they lose salary, that’s horrible. … There is nobody I have spoken to in this game who is not sick to their stomach every time any game is canceled.”

And if there’s no season at all?

“I don’t even want to think about that,” Levine said. “I couldn’t think about that. That’s a mind-boggling, horrid, horrid thought. Shame on all of us if that ever gets to that. Shame on all of us.”

Through it all, though, Levine says a deal can, and will, be done.

“I think there’s a deal there,” he added. “This is doable. It’s doable, especially our fans want it, the public wants it, what’s going on in this world, baseball is important, but not as important as some of the events going on all over the world. We’re coming off of COVID. We need to get this done.”