MLB’s slogan for the past few seasons has been “Let the kids play,” as a marketing tool to hopefully inject life into a dying sport.
As of December 2nd at 12:01 am, nobody will be playing baseball as the owners and players could not come to a labor agreement, thus resulting in a lockout.
The move by the owners marks baseball’s first work stoppage in 26 years, and the ninth in the sport’s history.
This comes just days after these same owners guaranteed $1.2 BILLION to the players via free agency. All remaining ffee agents are now put in the cold for the winter, with no place to call home for the 2022 MLB season, if there even is one. But that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the fallout of this lockout.
Players and owners bargained during the last three leading up to the expiration of the last CBA, but the gap between the parties was so wide entering the week that they had virtually no chance to reach a deal in time. For months now, even years, a work stoppage had appeared to be an inevitability. Players have grown increasingly dissatisfied with club behaviors and the CBA that enables at least some of them, and owners have shown little interest in making the concessions the players seek.
The sides plan to continue to negotiate, and the lockout could well be resolved prior to the start of spring training. But the specter of potential interruptions to training camps — or even the regular season — will grow as time passes. Spring training is to begin in early February, the regular season at the end of March. Technically, the lockout could end prior to a new deal being reached if there is legal intervention, or if the league chooses to lift the lockout, but neither scenario is likely at this point.
“This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive,” wrote Rob Manfred in a statement early Thursday morning. “It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”
The MLBPA’s statement said that the lockout “was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure Players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good-faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just Players, but the game and industry as a whole.” MLPA head Tony Clark said in his own statement, “This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the Players’ resolve to reach a fair contract. We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and advances the rights and benefits of our membership.”
Ever since the previous CBA negotiation, the talks in 2016 that produced the 2017-21 agreement, players have been unhappy. Per Associated Press calculations, the average major league salary has fallen 6.4 percent since 2017, and the median salary is down 30 percent from a record high in 2015.
“Players feel like the system has gotten out of whack and really gone too far in favoring the owners,” said the union’s lead negotiator, Bruce Meyer, in November. “The system isn’t operating the way it was traditionally intended to operate. And that’s in part because of the groupthink that we see in front offices and analytics. The way front offices are valuing players and paying players has developed in a way that makes changes to our agreement necessary.
“There’s also a feeling among players that front offices have become very good at manipulating the system to their advantage. … We want to make changes designed to incentivize competition for players, and remove disincentives for that competition. We want to find ways to get players compensated at an earlier stage of their careers when the teams are valuing them the most. And we want to preserve the fundamental principles of a market system.”
But owners, as the players see it, aren’t willing to make changes that are close to sufficient. Players this month have projected a readiness for a lockout.
“If we’re truly serious about making changes, improving the game and improving the position of players, it’s an unfortunate reality of the system,” said pitcher Andrew Miller, a member of the MLBPA’s eight-player executive subcommittee, in November. “But we are absolutely prepared for it.”
“Unless this CBA completely addresses the competition (issues) and younger players getting paid, that’s the only way I’m going to put my name on it,” said pitcher Max Scherzer, another subcommittee member.
Its clear the two sides are far apart and probably will be throughout the winter. But the sport can not and should not risk actually losing parts of or all of the 2022 season over any of the negotiations.
No ruling on a universal DH, anti-tanking, a salary cap nor splitting the revenue equally, despite each of their importance to the game, should stop actual games from being played come March.
The sport can’t afford to lose any more spotlight, considering it has fell of a cliff in popularity since the turn of the century. The NFL has passed MLB as America’s favorite and the NBA is up next as America’s next big thing.
If MLB isn’t careful their dying sport can speed up its decay with a substantial lockout.