At 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, the document governing baseball — the five-year collective bargaining agreement between the owners of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs and the players — expired. Two minutes later, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the league had issued a lockout, bringing the sport to a standstill. Teams are not allowed to talk to players, make major league signings, or transact.
This is the ninth work stoppage in MLB history and the fourth lockout. Here’s what’s going on:
What is an exclusion?
Basically, it is a form of work stoppage that the owners of a business use during a labor dispute.
“In a lockout, management says employees won’t show up,” said Bob Jarvis, a professor who teaches a baseball law course at Nova Southeastern University. “During a strike, workers say to management, ‘We won’t show up.’ But either way, the factory or company comes to a standstill because the workers are not there.”
A lockout is a tool that owners can use. Leagues can function without a new collective bargaining agreement, but it’s common in the four major North American men’s professional sports leagues—MLB, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL—to use an exclusion in cases like this.
Manfred called MLB’s implementation of the lockout “defensive.” His reasoning: The 1994-95 strike — the latest baseball outage to cost regular-season games (over 900 in all) — came after the league continued without a new deal.
When the CBA then expired, the 1994 season started as planned. Players went on strike in August because MLB wanted to add a salary cap. The union successfully avoided the cap being instituted, but the 1994 World Series was canceled and the strike did not end until April 1995, when a public legal battle took place.
“You want to determine the timing of the dispute,” Manfred said, later adding, “If you play without a deal, you are vulnerable to attack at any time. What happened in 1994 is the MLBPA that was elected in August when we were the most vulnerable due to the proximity of the high revenues that came with the post season. We wanted to remove that option and try to force the parties to solve the problems and reach an agreement now.”
Players felt that owners had been planning a lockout for a while and that it was an attempt at intimidation.
“There is no need to continue the dialogue,” said Tony Clark, director of the players’ union. “We’ve clearly had 26 years with no downtime and the industry continued to thrive and grow. And initially at a time of bumpy waters, the refuge was a strategic decision to exclude players.”
How many lockouts have resulted in matches being cancelled?
In the lockouts of 1973, ’76 and ’90, a full regular season was played. In 1990, for example, the 32-day lockout eliminated most of the spring training, but played 162 regular season games, starting a week later than usual.
What are the disadvantages of a lockout?
Although it is the off-season, Manfred admitted that a lockout is “bad for our business”. No games or paychecks will be missed this winter, but Clark said players viewed the lockout as “provocative”.
“The moment you declare a lockout, you really push fans into the player camp,” Jarvis said. “You’re really tapping into the players’ argument that, ‘Hey, even though we’re the reason you come to the games, you can’t see the games because of what management did.’ It’s much better for management to force the players to go on strike so that management can say, ‘Hey, we want the games to go on. It’s the players who refuse to show up.’”
Updates to MLB Hot Stove and Off Season
Jarvis said this work stoppage came at least at a time when other sports are in season: the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and college football. But for ardent baseball fans who closely monitor their team’s movements, he said a lockout is bad because the activity has stopped. For the average fan, he said, a lockout won’t make a difference. That is, until spring training. If no new appointment is then made, the casual fan will notice when the usual schedule is changed. More will when the regular season is affected.
“Right now, the calendar favors ownership,” said Michael LeRoy, a professor and expert on sports work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Players can’t sign free agent deals and they will worry about that. But if players can last until the end of January or February, the advantage will now shift to the players. It’s not very common, but there are times when lockouts turn into strikes. My concern about this is that a lockout wouldn’t be resolved any time soon, and over time it would turn into a strike and last until spring training and beyond.”
LeRoy said there have been about 20 work stoppages in the four major North American sports leagues since the 1960s, nearly all won by management. The only exception: the baseball players’ strike of 1994-95.
“That was the strike that set the bar for unions in sport to aspire to and so that’s all here,” he said. “That was a spectacular success for the union that was so successful, because the union avoided a hard salary cap. And that’s why we have players signing 10-year deals for over $300 million. You don’t get that in any other sport.”
What are the issues in the dispute?
There are a lot.
While star players set contract records in a system with no hard pay cap — a mechanism present in the other major North American professional sports leagues — players feel like owners aren’t struggling as much as they say they are; that too many teams share tens of millions in revenue from their counterparts, but are purposefully not competing for playoff spots; that the industry has grown, but the median salary in the top class (about $4 million) has remained the same or has fallen; that younger, cheaper players are being relied on more than ever and that their service time is being manipulated.
However, owners believe baseball players have the best deal in professional sports and point to the off-season spending on free-agents, who were on track to set a record, as a point in that argument.
Read more about their dispute here, here, here and here.
What can players do during a lockout?
They cannot sign major league contracts. They cannot participate in team activities. They shouldn’t be talking to team officials. They cannot use team facilities. (However, quite a few players already train with private trainers or coaches off-season.)
Some details of what players can do seem to be in question. Asked if contact could continue between club officials and players undergoing rehabilitation for injuries or those talking to mental health professionals, Manfred said: “That’s a legal issue on which we are not flexible.”
Clark responded by saying: “We have a difference of opinion on what the rules of engagement are here. There are differences in other scenarios where support was provided to those who needed it. So it’s not a line in the sand in that regard. which must be drawn.”
Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon, who is recovering from ankle surgery in October, has Thursday morning tweeted that he had to find his own way to continue his rehabilitation.
“Since MLB chose to shut us out, I have been unable to work with our amazing team of physical therapists who have guided my post-operative care/progression,” he wrote. “Now that I’m in charge of my own PT, what should be my first assignment? I think I’m done with this boot. It can go.”
The union has told players that if they are on a 40-man roster at any point in the 2021 season, their medical benefits will continue until the scheduled start of the 2022 season, according to a work stoppage guide provided to agents. , a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. If a work stoppage continues after that, the union said it will use its reserves to cover their health benefits.
What can clubs do during a lockout?
Teams were expected to continue their off-season, but without an important component: the players. They can work on transactions, but not complete them. They can continue to work with their non-playing employees, search video, plan their strategies, and so on.
Are club employees fired or fired?
An MLB spokesperson said that “there are no league or club-level plans for the foreseeable future to implement leave, pay cuts or staff cuts,” as MLB negotiated with the union what it hoped would be “a full 2022 season.” .
Can the parties still negotiate during a lockout?
Yes. They said they intend to, even though no further sessions were scheduled on Thursday morning.
“There are intense negotiations and when the lockout happens there is emotion around it and people are pulling back,” LeRoy said. “And usually there’s quite a long pause before more conversations happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the talks don’t happen until weeks later. And really, what it becomes is a battle of attrition. Who can endure the pain the longest?”
After the CBA expired, neither Manfred nor Clark gave a deadline for a deal. Manfred said MLB has now issued the lockout to provide enough time to reach a resolution that prevents damage to the 2022 season. Clark said players want an agreement that allays their concerns and hoped it would be “sooner rather than later”.
Is someone missing a pay slip?
Players do not earn salary or service during the off-season or spring training, during which they receive allowances. Paychecks and service time will begin in the regular season, which is expected to begin March 31. (During a lockout, clubs are required to pay signing bonuses, deferred pay and other payments earned before the lockout began, according to the union.)