Play Ball? MLB Lockout Says Otherwise

Published 11 months ago -

By: Kyle Sorgi, Sports Editor

On Wednesday, December 1, 2021, the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between Major League Baseball’s owners (MLB) and the Players’ Association (MLBPA) expired, prompting commissioner Rob Manfred to initiate a “defensive lockout” the next day until both sides agreed to a new CBA that would shape the future of MLB baseball. What may come as a shock to some is how that lockout is still happening after 98 days, and the public dismay stemming from the delay of the upcoming season has not accelerated a solution to the problem. In fact, the lack of a compromise from either side has already balked the start of Spring Training (originally scheduled to start February 26) and Opening Day (originally scheduled for March 31). To those wondering what instigated this work stoppage- or how a lockout works- there are numerous factors to consider.

When the lockout was implemented by MLB, it ended free agent signings, trades, and other roster-related transactions for clubs. It is important to note that the MLB owners (not the players!) initiated this lockout, meaning that the owners are preventing the players from working. Had the players initiated the stoppage, that would have been a strike, which last occurred in 1994 and canceled the postseason and World Series that year. The last MLB lockout occurred in 1990, but did not lead to the cancelation of any regular season games. Other notable work stoppages in MLB’s history occurred in 1972 (strike that canceled 86 games), 1981 (strike that canceled 713 games), and 1985 (strike that canceled 25 games). The MLB had gone the longest of the four major professional sports leagues without a lockout or strike (26 years), but that ship has now sailed as very little progress has been made towards a new CBA.

So far, the lockout has canceled Spring Training games thru March 17 and axed 91 regular season games– a number that can grow the longer the lockout stays. Proposals and counterproposals did not find a compromise strong enough to end negotiations, as nine consecutive days of talks between MLB and MLBPA leading up to a commissioner-imposed March 1 deadline was not enough time to offset the cancelation of regular season games. The longevity of this lockout shows the stubbornness of MLB and MLBPA to truly listen to the other side and sufficiently balance everyone’s desires and demands, which concern an array of financial, transactional, and practical matters.

The MLB’s best offer before the March 1 deadline was not enticing enough for MLBPA to accept. The proposals in that offer covered minimum player salary, pre-arbitration money, player service time, the competitive balance tax, draft pick compensation, and other provisions. What the owners and players want in this new CBA are quite different, as they have shown little progress towards finding the middle ground. Manfred expressed appreciation to the players for their hard work in the nine days leading up to March 1, but the damage that has been done (and has yet to be done) is bound to hurt an ailing long-term outlook of the sport. The last eight MLB seasons have seen decreases in attendance, and modern TV ratings and viewership are not what they used to be.

The aforementioned 26-year streak without a work stoppage did not necessarily represent bliss between MLB and the players; in fact, the players’ trust in the owners has waned for some time since the previous CBA was agreed upon in 2016. While both sides want this lockout to end, if either is more okay than the other with it lasting longer, it’d be MLB because the players’ demands would take money out of the owners’ pockets. However, I think I speak for most people when I say that this lockout needs to end as soon as possible! I can’t say when the skies will clear because it all boils down to whether MLB and MLBPA can see far enough past their differences to reach an agreement that- at least tentatively- keeps the sport on its feet. I have faith that a new CBA will eventually come to life, but it is difficult to forecast what will happen beyond the diamond as a result of this months-long deadlock between the two sides.

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