Hairston Jr.: "I’m Scared To Death Of A Work Stoppage"

If players and owners can't compromise, "it could get very ugly for baseball," Jerry Hairston Jr. says

Zach Gelb
February 25, 2019 - 3:56 pm

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In 2001, Major League Baseball was in jeopardy of yet another work stoppage, but ultimately, both sides – the players and the owners – came together and compromised.

“Tragedy struck our country – September 11 – and both sides knew there could be no work stoppage, so we were able to agree,” World Series champion and Dodgers analyst Jerry Hairston Jr. said on The Zach Gelb Show. “For the first time since then, I’m scared to death of a work stoppage. I hope it doesn’t happen. I’m hoping cooler heads prevail for both sides, and I hope it doesn’t happen. But it might happen because the players are frustrated.”

Hairston, who played in the big leagues from 1998 to 2013, interacts with a lot of active players, many of whom aren’t happy with the number of free agents still sitting at home during spring training.

“These guys are frustrated,” Hairston said. “I’m hoping (a work stoppage) doesn’t happen, but these players see the landscape and they are very uncomfortable. Big leaguers don’t grow on trees. They’re big leaguers for a reason. A lot of players are sitting at home and should be in camp right now.”

Instead, it appears the economics of the game have shifted, as owners have been reluctant to sign veterans to lucrative or long-term deals. Hairston understands the rationale behind that, but he also thinks owners need to be willing to compromise.

“If you don’t want to pay the player as they get older, make free agency earlier,” Hairston said. “Instead of having these players go to arbitration after years three, four and five, make them go into arbitration after year two and make them hit free agency after year four or five. That way it allows teams to, yes, you can still hold on to your young players, but these players are starting to hit the market a lot sooner. Then you have a better mix of talent at a young age. Instead of players hitting free agency at 34, 35, 36, they’re starting to hit free agency at 25, 26, 27. There’s a couple things you can do to tweak the system that can benefit both sides. Hopefully both sides agree.”

There is incentive for both sides to do exactly that. Baseball hasn’t recouped some of the fans it lost in 1994, when the World Series was canceled, and the game – one could argue – was stronger then than it is now.

“It could get very ugly for baseball,” Hairston said. “And here’s another thing: you have to strike while the iron is hot if you’re baseball. The last three or four years, the NFL has taken a huge hit for a variety of reasons – mainly, I think, (because) of the concussion thing. Parents don’t want to see their kids play football. They don’t want to see their kids have CTE. More parents are starting push their kids into baseball, and baseball needs to understand that.”