Why is there an MLB lockout? And what does that mean for baseball?

Major League Baseball (MLB) locked its players out early Thursday morning, after months of deadlocked talks with the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) failed to make progress toward a new employment contract.

It marked baseball’s first strike since the 1994-95 strike, and it’s MLB’s ninth strike in its history.

If the lockout drags on long enough, it could jeopardize the 2022 season. The two parties reportedly disagreed on free agency, revenue sharing and luxury tax limits for clubs. The two sides can still negotiate these terms during a lockout, but teams cannot sign players to new contracts.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), a negotiated agreement governing most aspects of the working relationship between players and team owners, expired on Thursday, and a new CBA was not agreed.

In a statement on Thursday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed his “disappointment” with the lockout, but said he believed it was “the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season”.

Addressing MLB fans, the letter from Manfred said: “Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26-year history of peace of mind and reach an agreement with MLBPA before the current one. “CBA expired. Therefore, we have been forced to start a lockout of Major League players with effect from 12:01 ET on December 2.”

“We hope the lockout will kick-start the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten most teams’ ability to “To be competitive. It is simply not a viable option. From the outset, MLBPAs have been reluctant to move from their starting position, compromise or collaborate on solutions.”

The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) called the shutdown “a dramatic move.”

“It’s not required by law or for any other reason. It was the owners’ choice, clearly and simply, specifically intended to pressure players to relinquish rights and benefits and abandon good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not only the players but the game and the industry as a whole, “it said in a statement.

“This tactic is not new. We have been here before and the players have risen to the occasion again and again – guided by a solidarity that has been created through generations. We will do it again here.”

The deadlock between the two parties is over a number of factors, primarily regarding how the league’s revenue will be distributed. Players want to address their declining share while owners want to avoid it.

One of the major pitfalls for players is to fight to lower the free agency threshold – when a player has played out of their contact or is no longer on contract with a team for any other reason. Over the years, there have been several players who have had difficulty switching between teams because the teams increasingly prefer cost- and team-controlled players – who are not readable for salary mediation or free agency. Currently, players with six full years of major league service are eligible for free agency, but players want to lower that threshold.

There has also been disagreement about when and how much young players will be paid, due to a pay system driven by employment rather than capacity. MLBPA is trying to fight for a marked increase in the minimum wage for younger players, who are currently not entitled to more than the major league minimum until they have served in the MLB for three years.

For example, AL MVP finalist Vladimir Guerrero Jr. served. only $ 605,400 this season, only $ 30,000 more than the minimum wage and only 15 percent of what the average player earns, according to Bloomberg. The players’ association will claim that he was underpaid by tens of thousands of millions of dollars.

Guaranteed contracts

In the letter, Manfred pointed out that baseball players already have no salary cap and are not subject to a maximum length or dollar amount on contracts. He added that MLB has guaranteed contracts that run for 10 or more years and over $ 300 million, and the league had not “proposed anything that would change these fundamentals.”

“Although we’re repeatedly heard that free agency is ‘broken’ – in November, $ 1.7 billion was committed to free agents, breaking the previous record by almost 4x. By the end of the offseason, clubs will have committed more money. to players than in any low season in MLB history, “he said.

Manfred also said the league offered to establish a minimum wage list for all clubs to meet for the first time in baseball history, allowing them to get the majority of players to reach free agent earlier through an age-based system that would eliminate any requirement on service time manipulation. He said the league also offered to increase compensation for all young players, including increases in the minimum wage.

He accused the Players Association of coming to the negotiating table with “a strategy of confrontation over compromise.”

He said they never wavered from collectively “the most extreme set of proposals in their history”, including significant cuts in the revenue sharing system, a weakening of the competition balance tax and shortening of the period players play for their team. The commissioner said these terms would make the game less competitive.

He said: “Delaying this process further would only further jeopardize spring training, the opening day and the rest of the season – and we can not allow an expired deal to cause another season strike and a missed World Series, as we experienced in 1994. We owe you all, our fans, better than that. “

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred at the match between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 26, 2021 in Houston, Texas. MLB locked its players out on Thursday, after months of deadlocked talks with the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), which did not make much progress towards a new employment contract.
Bob Levey / Getty

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