Major League Baseball’s 26-year-old peace at work ended at midnight on Wednesday, when what many feared was inevitable finally happened: the sport’s first lockout since 1990 became a reality.
With the expiration of the collective agreement, the owners essentially closed baseball indefinitely, a negotiating strategy that Commissioner Rob Manfred seemed more than ready to pursue when he discussed the situation two weeks earlier in Chicago.
Oddly enough, the stalemate over baseball’s financial system comes after teams spent about $ 1.5 billion in the first month of the low season on new player contracts, a kind of gold rush given the fear of the impending lockout. Despite the unprecedented grip on money, players remained focused on radical change and on doing what was necessary to achieve it.
Take that from Max Scherzer, a member of the union’s executive council, who did not hide his pessimism on Wednesday on a Zoom call that introduced him as a Met. Scherzer said his push to complete the $ 130 million three-year contract early was directly related to the lockout, which he believed was inevitable.
“When you look at the 2016 CBA deal and how it has worked over the last five years, we as players see big problems in it,” Scherzer said, taking a break from the Dallas negotiations. “First of all, we see a competition problem and how the teams behave because of certain rules that are within them. There have to be adjustments because of that to bring the competition up. As players, it is absolutely crucial for us to have a “very competitive league. When we do not have it, we have problems.”
Scherzer spoke specifically about the team’s “tanking” – giving up on seasons by not investing in players and scooping up high draft picks. The union believes that lack of spending seems to keep the average wage artificially low. Also, the luxury tax system acts as a soft ceiling on payrolls as only the Dodgers went over the $ 210 million threshold last season.
“Players sense a separation in the league,” said agent Scott Boras, who joined Scherzer on Wednesday’s Zoom call. “A dynamic that now exists and that did not exist … Now almost half of the league is basically looking at next season in June or July so they can improve their draft status. This is not about anyone, operating in the industry or any team – those are the rules.We have something in the rules that creates a non-competitive fan interest.
“All those things have to be taken up and taken up right away because the whole integrity and health of the game has to go back to where it was, where there is an incentive to go on the ball field and win every day.”
It’s just an extensive way of saying that the sport’s revenue of $ 11 billion needs to be distributed more fairly between teams and players, which is always the core issue in baseball labor negotiations. The two sides have been discussing reducing the length of service for free agency from six to five – or even after the age of 29 – as well as changes to arbitration aimed at raising the salaries of younger players. There are also a number of rule changes on the table, including a pitch clock and DH, but the financial structure of the game is what has the most important points.
Scherzer is one of the major workers ‘hawks on the players’ side, and he did not present a particularly diplomatic stance on Wednesday when asked about the union’s readiness for a long battle that could threaten the start of the regular season (and payslips). This would be the fourth lockout in the history of baseball and the first since 1990, which was the only one that pushed games back.
“We have a pretty good war chest behind us, money that we could allocate to players who need it,” Scherzer said. “I do not see that we will ever take advantage of it. That would be the best case scenario. Hopefully we can get a deal. But I just know that we as players are unwavering in our belief in how we see the game. ”
WHAT TO KNOW
Major League Baseball has not experienced a work stoppage since the 1994-95 seasons, but it was a player strike. A lockout is different in that it is the owners who start the shutdown of the sport when the agreement expires on December 1st.
During a lockout, all transactions are put on hold, effectively shutting down the hot stove season by stopping free agency and stopping trading activity. Players are excluded from using team facilities. Next week’s winter meetings scheduled for 6-8. December in Orlando, will be canceled, and the draft Rule 5 draft postponed indefinitely. January is the month when arbitration rates are exchanged, so if the lockout continues, it could be delayed.
Management is using a lockout strategy to put pressure on the negotiations, but given that this is the low season, the two sides may not really feel a sense of urgency before the start of spring training in mid-February. is threatened or the opening day is put in jeopardy for about six weeks. later. Owners and players are far apart about changes in the sport’s economy, from how younger players should be paid to the qualifications for free play. The union also wants to counteract “refueling”, as teams that give up on seasons by failing to invest in players have contributed to the fall in the sport’s average salary.
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