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The history of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration

FMCS and Baseball

FMCS has been in the news of late connected to the Major League Baseball lockout. As indicated in the article linked here Major League Baseball requested assistance from FMCS.
UPDATE Letter from MLB Commissioner

To Our Fans:

I had hoped against hope that I would not have to be in the position of canceling games. We worked hard to avoid an outcome that is bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs.

I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort on the part of either party. The Players came here for nine days, worked hard and tried to make a deal. I appreciate their effort.

Our committee of Club representatives committed to the process, offered compromise after compromise, and hung in past the deadline to exhaust all efforts to reach an agreement.

So far, we have failed to achieve our mutual goal of a fair deal. The unfortunate thing is that the agreement we have offered has huge benefits for fans and players.

We have listened to the Players Association throughout this process. A primary goal of the Players Association has been to increase pay for younger players. As I have said previously, we agree and share that goal. We offered to raise the minimum salary to $700,000, an increase of $130,000 from 2021. We offered to create an annual bonus pool of $30 million for the very best young players. In total, we are offering a 33% raise to nearly two-thirds of Major League players and adding more than $100 million annually in additional compensation for younger players.

The proposal also addressed player and fan concerns about issues like service time and competitive issues. Baseball would for the first time have a draft lottery — the most aggressive in professional sports. Also, for the first time ever, we agreed to an incentive system to encourage clubs to promote top prospects to their Opening Day rosters. We also proposed that the first and second-place finishers in the Rookie of the Year voting in each league would receive a full year of service.

The MLBPA asked to make free agency more robust. For the first time ever, we agreed to eliminate direct draft pick compensation, a change the MLBPA has sought for decades. On the Competitive Balance Tax, we offered a significantly larger first-year increase than in the last two agreements, bearing in mind that the Competitive Balance Tax is the only mechanism in the agreement that protects some semblance of a level playing field among clubs.

The International Draft would have more fairly allocated talent among the clubs and reduced abuses in some international markets.

We also listened to our fans. The expanded playoffs would bring the excitement of meaningful September baseball and postseason baseball to fans in more of our markets. While we preferred a 14-team format, when the format became a significant obstacle, we listened to the players’ concerns, and offered to compromise by accepting their 12-team format.

Finally, we offered a procedural agreement that would allow for the timely implementation of sorely needed rules like the pitch timer and elimination of shifts to improve the entertainment value of the game on the field. And we agreed to the universal DH.

So, what is next? The calendar dictates that we are not going to be able to play the first two series of regular season games and those games are officially canceled. We are prepared to continue negotiations. We have been informed that the MLBPA is headed back to New York meaning that no agreement is possible until at least Thursday. Currently, camps could not meaningfully operate until at least March 8th, leaving only 23 days before scheduled Opening Day.

We played without an agreement in 1994 and the players went on strike in August, forcing the cancellation of the World Series. It was a painful chapter in our game’s history. We cannot risk such an outcome again for our fans and our sport.

The Clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible. To that end, we want to bargain and we want a deal with the Players Association as quickly as possible.

Manfred signature footer

Statement from the Major League Baseball Players Association

JUPITER, March 1 – Rob Manfred and MLB’s owners have cancelled the start of the season. Players and fans around the world who love baseball are disgusted, but sadly not surprised.

From the beginning of these negotiations, Players’ objectives have been consistent—to promote competition, provide fair compensation for young Players, and to uphold the integrity of our market system. Against the backdrop of growing revenues and record profits, we are seeking nothing more than a fair agreement.

What Rob Manfred characterized as a “defensive lockout” is, in fact, the culmination of a decades-long attempt by owners to break our Player fraternity. As in the past, this effort will fail. We are united and committed to negotiating a fair deal that will improve the sport for Players, fans and everyone who loves our game.

FMCS has an interesting history with major league sports from soccer, hockey, football, and baseball (Look for a future article about sports mediation cases).
Former Director Bill Usery (after leaving FMCS) was involved in the 1994 negotiations along with President Clinton and many others, but as the below picture indicates the 1994 World Series was never played.
Baseball from the 1994 World Series that was not played due to a Strike, and a photo of some key players in the 1994 negotiations, including Director Usery.
Former Director Ken Moffett mediated the 1981 MLB dispute then became the Players Association Executive Director.  After leaving FMCS, Moffett was hired in December 1982 as the second executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association and took over on Jan. 1, 1983, when Marvin Miller retired ahead of his 66th birthday. Moffett was given a three-year contract but lasted just 10 1/2 months and was fired that Nov. 22 by the union’s executive board. Washington Post article about Director Moffett with references to the 1981 MLB dispute.
1981 Baseball Strike from

The 1981 baseball strike was the fifth work stoppage in Major League Baseball history. The strike began on June 12 and forced the cancellation of 713 games (or 38 percent of the Major League schedule) in the middle of the regular season.

An estimated $146 million was lost in player salaries, ticket sales, broadcast revenues, and concession revenues. The players lost $4 million a week in salaries while the owners suffered a total loss of $72 million.

The Strike Deadline

The Executive Board of the Players’ Association voted unanimously to strike on May 29 due to the unresolved issue of free agent compensation. The deadline was extended briefly, however, after the Players’ Association’s unfair labor complaint was heard by the National Labor Relations Board.

Reasons for the Strike

The strike was called in response to the owners desperately wanting to win back the prerogatives over the players. The owners had already lost at the bargaining table and in the courts on the issue of the free agency draft. At issue during the seven weeklong negotiations was the owner’s demanding compensation for losing a free agent player to another team. The compensation in question was a player who was selected from the signing team’s roster (not including 12 “protected” players). The players maintained that any form of compensation would undermine the value of free agency.


Although the strike was called by the players, many sportswriters and even fans placed most of the blame on the owners. Sports Illustrated reflected this particular opinion loud and clear with the cover headline that read “Strike! The Walkout the Owners Provoked.” One of the reasons the owners doled out such hefty contracts from 1978-1981 (43 players each negotiated contracts worth over $1 million during this period) was because they were afraid of losing disgruntled stars in the free agency reentry draft. So, the owners paid their players the so-called new going rate in order to keep them from going elsewhere.

The Strike Ends

On July 311981, a compromise was reached. In the settlement, teams that lost a “premium” free agent could be compensated by drawing from a pool of players left unprotected from all of the clubs rather than just the signing club. The settlement gave the owners a limited victory on the compensation issue.

Reportedly, the negotiations were so bitter that when a settlement was finally reached, Major League Baseball Players Association representative Marvin Miller and the owners’ negotiator, Ray Grebey, refused to pose with each other for the traditional “peace ceremony” photograph.

Updated: March 3, 2022 — 6:58 pm
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