Major League Baseball officially put the locks on. Hunter Atkins Houston Chronicle just hopes they didn’t throw away the key.
On December 1 of last year, the league’s collective bargaining agreement expired. By 12:01 AM the next day, with no new deal in place, the MLB informed all players and personnel that it had locked them out. The result has been no baseball since. But it’s also not that simple. Fans are left with questions, wondering if there will even be a season at all.
While Hunter Atkins Houston Chronicle can’t bring America’s pastime back, he can step up to the plate by answering a few questions. To help, the veteran sports reporter addresses five lingering questions concerning baseball’s first work stoppage in more than 25 years.
What is a lockout?
Essentially, the MLB halted all league activity. There can be no contact between players and teams of any kind. This freezes free agency and bars any use of team facilities. This is the byproduct of the MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association failing to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. While the players and owners have expressed concern about the lockout, it is not surprising that they are in a position to take the tough stance they did. The NFL player’s unions argued that the league should have agreed to a CBT threshold of $245 million for the next three seasons, but the increase in revenue is not nearly as big as what these two sides would have gotten without it. In addition to the financial impact, MLB owners also wanted to avoid the risk of a strike. But that didn’t help the negotiations, and likely added a stalemate between the two sides.
The NFL lockout is a bitter fight that has divided fans, as well as players. On the one hand, NFL executives argue that spending money outside of the contention window is bad business, and it rarely occurs. On the other hand, players want to limit revenue-sharing payments in order to discourage complacent teams. Most people in the industry believe that the lockout will end before regular-season games are at risk. But the players’ side is not convinced.
While the leagues are negotiating a new contract, the players and teams are likely to continue to work without any changes. A deal will be reached before the 2022 season, but there will be no furloughs, pay cuts, or other measures. It is a good sign for the fans that Major League Baseball is making the necessary adjustments. However, it is not clear whether this will affect the league’s ability to survive a prolonged blackout.
In addition to salary and other benefits, players want to see more television time. But it’s not enough to make a big difference in the game’s quality. They should have more opportunities to watch their favorite team. The players’ strike broke up, and the owners tried to resolve the conflict. They also want to keep the player’s union from getting fired, and should be able to negotiate better with the players. While this situation is still in its early stages, the future of the sport is uncertain.
The players’ union and MLB have a long-term contract, but the talks have made little progress. The owners have a minimum salary of $700,000 for players that haven’t reached arbitration. Moreover, the union wants more money for its members. The players’ union is still fighting for these things. If not, then the strike will last forever. There is no way to win a labor dispute. But it’s important to remember that it is the MLB that decides the terms of a contract.
How long will this last?
Hunter Atkins Houston Chronicle explains that it’s complicated. The lockout will last until both sides can agree to terms. And it’s already lasted nearly two months. The MLB and MLBPA have been seemingly far apart so far, indicating that the lockout could continue. Because the pandemic shortened the season the previous year, it would seem that the risk of more lost revenue would be motivation enough.
Will there be lost games?
There has already been some impact on games. Spring training was set to begin at the end of February. MLB has already announced the cancellation of some of those spring training games, pushing the start back to at least March. More delays will follow if a deal isn’t reached. It’s unclear how this might impact the regular season, but negotiations have picked up intensity recently.
What are the players and the owners fighting about?
In short, it’s about money. The economics of baseball have been the major sticking point from Day 1. Players want the opportunity to earn more money at a younger age. Under the current system, teams are able to manipulate service time by keeping players in the minor leagues. This effectively caps a player’s earnings and grants the team more control for longer. Tanking has also become a hot button issue. As a means to deliberately lose, owners will slash payroll, limiting opportunities for free agent players. The MLBPA wants to institute a salary cap.
Which side is more likely to win?
A work stoppage is never a win. Hunter Atkins Houston Chronicle looks at the lost revenue and bad public relations as a loss for the entire league already. But it’s likely the players will come away with something they can hang their hat on. It’s been a top-down system for centuries. Whether it’s adopting a universal designated hitter, overhauling the arbitration system, or establishing minimum salaries, the players are sure to walk away feeling like they took a little power back.