Major League Baseball threw itself into its first strike in a quarter of a century when the sport’s collective agreement expired on Wednesday night, and the owners immediately shut players out in a move that threatens spring training and opening day.
The strategy, the management’s equivalent of a strike under federal labor law, ended the sport’s peace of mind after 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years.
The teams decided to force the long-awaited confrontation in a low season instead of risking players going out during the summer, as they did in 1994. Players and owners had successfully entered into four consecutive agreements without stopping work, but they have accelerated against a collision. for more than two years.
Talks that began last spring ended Wednesday after a brief session of minutes with the pages far apart on dozens of key economic issues. The management’s negotiators left the union’s hotel about nine hours before the agreement expired at 23:59 EST, and players said MLB did not make any new key economic proposals this week.
MLB’s 30 controlling owners held a brief digital meeting to confirm their lockout decision, and MLB delivered the announcement of its fourth ever lockout – to go along with five strikes – in an email to the Major League Baseball Players Association.
This stop began 30 days after Atlanta’s World Series victory ended a complete season following a pandemic-shortened 2020 played in empty ball fields. The immediate effect of the lockout is to banish players from team training facilities and weight rooms, while cooling ticket sales for 2022.
That the union demanded change after anger over a declining average salary, middle-class players forced out of teams concentrating the payroll on the wealthy, and veterans rejected in favor of lower-paid youth, especially among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild.
“As players, we see big problems with that,” New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer said of the 2016 deal. that has to be adjusted because of it to bring out the competition. “
There are 11 weeks left until pitchers and catchers have to sign up for spring training on February 16, giving about 70 days to reach an agreement that allows for a timely start. The opening day is set for March 31, and a minimum of three weeks of organized training has previously been required.
The management, which intends to maintain the wage constraints achieved in recent decades, rejected the union’s requests for what the teams considered significant changes to the sport’s economic structure, including lowering the required service time for free work and wage brokers.
Many clubs struggled to add players ahead of a lockout and an expected signing halt, committing to more than $ 1.9 billion in new contracts. a one-day record of more than $ 1.4 billion on Wednesday.
“It felt like at least certain groups of free agents were moving faster the last few days,” Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington said.
Two of the union’s eight subcommittees signed major agreements: Texas infiltrator Marcus Semien ($ 175 million) and Scherzer ($ 130 million).
“This is actually a little fun,” Scherzer said. “I’m a fan of the game, and to see everyone sign right now, to actually see teams compete on this kind of timely, it’s been refreshing because we’ve seen chills in the last several free seasons.”
No player remains active from the 232-day strike that interrupted the 1994 season, led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years and caused the 1995 season to start late. That stop only ended when a federal judge – the future Supreme Court judge Sonia Sotomayor – issued an injunction forcing the owners to restore the work rules of the expired employment contract.
The average wage dropped from $ 1.17 million before the strike to $ 1.11 million, but then resumed its seemingly relentless rise. It peaked at just under $ 4.1 million in 2017, the first season of the latest CBA, but is likely to drop to around $ 3.7 million when this year’s final numbers are calculated.
That money is highly concentrated at the top of the wage structure. Among approximately 1,955 players who signed major league contracts at any one time entering the final month of the regular season, 112 had earned $ 10 million or more this year per game. August 31, 40 of which earned at least $ 20 million, including proportionate shares of signature bonuses. .
There were 1,397 earning under $ 1 million, of which 1,271 were at $ 600,000 or less and 332 under $ 100,000, a group of younger players commuting back and forth to the minors.
Union chief Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman who became CEO after Michael Weiner’s death in 2013, said the players are united and understand the need to stick together to achieve common goals. The parties are still talking about the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, where they sneak up on how long the season could have been, and take their positions before a neutral arbitrator.
The union has withheld license fees, as it usually does in negotiations; cash, U.S. government bonds and investments totaled $ 178.5 million last December 31, according to a financial disclosure form submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor.
“We have a pretty big war chest behind us of money that we can allocate to players,” Scherzer said.
Some player agents have speculated that management’s lines of credit may already be under pressure following income deprivation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but clubs’ finances are more opaque publicly than the union’s, making it difficult to establish comparative financial strength to withstand a prolonged work stoppage.
Rob Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in 2015 after a quarter-century as MLB employment negotiator, made it clear last month that management preferred an out-of-season lockout over a mid-season strike.
“We’ve been down this road. We locked out in ’89 -’90,” he said. “I do not think ’94 worked too well for anyone. I think when you look at other sports, the pattern has become to control the timing of the labor dispute and try to minimize the prospect of actual interruptions of the season. That’s it. “It’s about. It’s avoiding doing damage to the season.”
Scott Boras, who negotiated Scherzer’s agreement and shortstop Corey Seager’s $ 325 million contract with Texas, has pushed for the union to insist on changes to reduce the incentive to lower wages during reconstruction.
“Sometimes the rules of the game require them to do things that are not in the best interest of the game,” Boras said, “for them to be a better competitor for next year, they have to do things that the rules lead them to do. “
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