Major League Baseball has officially instituted a lockout (Strike). The 2016-2021 collective bargaining agreement between MLB owners and the players’ union expired at 10:59 p.m. Central Time tonight.
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the lockout as part of a previously prepared letter to fans (the full text is available here), Manfred wrote in part:
Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jump-start negotiations and lead us to an agreement that allows the season to start on time. This defensive blocking was necessary because the vision of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) threatened the ability of most teams to be competitive. It is simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has not been willing to move from its initial position, compromise or collaborate on solutions. “
Manfred went on to assert that the MLBPA “came to the bargaining table with a confrontational strategy on compromise” and “never wavered collectively from the most extreme set of proposals in its history, including significant cuts to the revenue sharing system, a weakening of the competitive balance tax, and shortening the length of time players play for their teams. All of these changes would make our game less competitive, not more. “
The MLB Players Association issued a statement of its own (on Twitter). Read in part:
Major League Baseball has announced a player lockout, shutting down our industry. This closure is a dramatic move, regardless of the timing. It is not required by law or for any other reason. It was the owners’ decision, plain and simple, to calculate specifically to pressure Players to relinquish rights and benefits, and abandon good faith negotiation proposals that will benefit not only Players, but the game and the industry as a whole. . … We remain determined to return to the field under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement that is fair to all parties and provides fans with the best version of the game we all love. “
A transaction freeze will be the most visible appearance of the lockdown to fans, at least until the possibility of game cancellations if no deal is reached within a couple of months.
However, the ban on transactions is not the only effect. ESPN’s Jeff Passan explored some intricacies of the situation earlier this week in an article worth reading in its entirety.
Some of the less visible effects: Injured players will not be able to communicate with team coaching staff, players can no longer use team-run mental health services, and some foreign-born players may have visa issues. Also don’t expect press conferences for newly hired players or interviews with GMs:
The lockout is uncharted territory for a generation of baseball fans; This is the first work stoppage in the history of this website. It will be the first official work stoppage since 1994, breaking a streak of almost three decades of labor peace. The parties had discussions every day this week, but it does not appear that they have made much progress.
The league declined to make a counter offer on the time-of-service structure and luxury tax thresholds unless the MLBPA abandoned its efforts to boost players’ eligibility for free agency, a lawsuit the union allegedly rejected.
The league gave up some ground on the competitive equilibrium tax, and MLB proposed gradually increasing the lower tax threshold to an endpoint of $ 220 million:
However, that remains slightly below the MLBPA’s $ 240MM target, and it’s unclear whether the league’s proposed increase also involved a corresponding increase in penalties paid for exceeding those markers.
Certainly, there is a lot to work on beyond the luxury tax. The league’s time of service system, umpiring, and fundamental competitive structure (including the number of playoff teams) will be discussed at least for the next several weeks.
That says nothing about potential field rule changes like the extra inning runner and universal designated hitter. With so much to be determined, it is generally not expected that a deal will be reached in a short time:
The 2022 spring training schedule could potentially dictate when the lockout ends, with owners likely reluctant to give up the revenue from exhibition games.
It may interest you: MLB Major League Baseball Unemployment Almost Certain Dec. 2
The Winter Meetings, originally scheduled for December 6-9 in Orlando, have been canceled, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). The commissioner is scheduled to hold a press conference tomorrow, Thursday morning.
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MLB: It’s official, Major League Baseball’s work stoppage begins, the first in 27 years