Jared Walsh gains an appreciation for CBA negotiations as Angels player representative
War rages in Ukraine, inflation grips the U.S. economy, gas prices are through the roof and baseball owners and players spent all winter haggling over a new collective bargaining agreement in the quinquennial battle of billionaires vs. millionaires.
It wasn’t a great look for a sport clinging to its status as national pastime, with acrimonious negotiations sparking heated rhetoric, threatening the long-term health of the game and challenging the patience of even its most loyal fans.
But now that it’s over, and major leaguers are reporting to camp — a month later than scheduled — after a new collective bargaining agreement was ratified Thursday, one rising Angels star had a message of gratitude for the fans he hopes will be filling spring training stadiums in Arizona and Florida and big league stadiums soon.
“Just thanks for sticking with us through this,” first baseman Jared Walsh, who served as the Angels’ player representative during negotiations, said in a Thursday night phone call. “I think it’s actually a really exciting time for baseball. There are so many superstars in the game right now, so just enjoy the show.
“I think it’s going to be a fun summer. You’re going to see a lot of great players. Guys getting back on the field is going to be great for everybody.”
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Walsh, who hit 29 homers and 34 doubles with 98 runs batted in during a breakout 2021 season, stands to benefit from the new CBA, which institutes a new $50-million bonus pool that will reward the achievements of players who have not yet qualified for salary arbitration.
The 28-year-old slugger made $590,500 in 2021, his second season, $20,000 more than the major league minimum, but could boost his 2023 salary with another productive year.
If Walsh does reap a financial windfall in his last year before arbitration, all the hours he spent this winter on video calls with fellow players, union executives and attorneys for the owners — obligations that often pulled him away from the batting cage and weight room — will seem to have been worth it.
“It was grueling, but honestly, I feel like I learned so much that I think five years from now, when we go through this again, I’ll have a different perspective,” said Walsh, who took over as Angels player rep after pitcher Andrew Heaney was traded to the New York Yankees last summer.
“Other guys have been around a lot longer, they’ve been through CBAs, and I haven’t. Now that I have a little understanding of how it all works, I think it will be beneficial.”
When the owners locked out the players and shut down the sport Dec. 2, commissioner Rob Manfred said he hoped the move would “jump-start the negotiations.”
But owners didn’t make another proposal to the players until Jan. 13, the sides met sporadically over the next month and negotiations didn’t really get serious until Feb. 21, when the sides met nine days in a row in Florida.
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It took another week of intense negotiations in New York City and Manfred’s cancellation — and then reinstatement of — the first two weeks of regular-season games before a deal was finally reached.
What took so long?
“Oh, man … I think you’ve got a lot of savvy businessmen that are very competent when it comes to that stuff, and you’ve got a lot of players who wanted to make progress for the next generation and the current players,” Walsh said.
“I think both sides are probably pretty stubborn, and that’s part of the reason that both sides are great. I think the owners are successful in what they do, and the players are successful in what they do.”
The three-month process ended with a bit of intrigue when the union’s eight-member executive subcommittee, which includes highly paid veterans such as Max Scherzer, Francisco Lindor and Gerrit Cole, voted 8-0 against the league’s final proposal, but teams voted 26-4 in favor of it. The Angels voted for it.
“Yeah, that’s an interesting thing,” Walsh said, when asked to explain the discrepancy. “I think those guys are extremely informed. They sat in on the meetings, they’ve been through multiple CBAs, so I trust their judgment. I’m only in one clubhouse — I don’t know the conversations that are happening with the Yankees or Brewers or Reds — so it’s hard for me to speculate on that.
“I think all those guys were really committed to fighting this thing for as long as it took. I think there’s just so much nuance that goes into the conversations among each team. I just appreciate all the leadership, even though that might be a head-scratcher for some people.”
Angels first baseman Jared Walsh rebounded from a slump after his All-Star game selection and is poised to be a big part of the team’s future plans.
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