For millions of people, the end of football season and NBA all-star weekend means one thing... baseball is right around the corner. Traditionally, pitchers and catchers report to their respective team camps February 15 while the first spring training games kick off February 26th. Unfortunately, that may not be the case this year as the MLB and MLBPA are still locked in the trenches of the negotiation process. Following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on December 2nd resulting in lockout enforced by the MLB, the sides reportedly remain nowhere close to reaching a new deal more than two months later (Diamond).
This is not the first occurrence of a work stoppage for the MLB. The 1994-1995 season saw a players’ strike that lasted 232 days in which 948 games, along with the post-season, were canceled. To make sense of the current work stoppage, it is important to understand how a strike differs from a lockout. A strike occurs when the players, represented by their labor union, stop reporting to work. On the other hand, a lockout results when management, or the team owners, force a stoppage. “In plainspoken terms, a strike is a refusal to work, and a lockout is a refusal to permit work to be done” (Perry). Though the owners can end the lockout at any time, they likely will not do so without a deal to prevent the players from going on strike later (Diamond).
The 2 questions MLB fans want to figure out... What can the 2 sides still be negotiating about, and will Opening Day be delayed?
One of the largest issues being negotiated involves the competitive balance tax, known by most as the luxury tax. The MLBPA is persistent that the luxury tax increase in order to bring about more demand for “middle-class” free agents. This has been a struggle in recent years as many formidable players have not been able to secure contracts with new teams due to the current tax level.
A couple of other noteworthy issues include a changed revenue sharing system as well as an earlier arbitration period. As the MLBPA has pointed out, the average salary for players during the last CBA decreased. They are seeking a minimum salary of $775,000, while the league (the owners) are currently set at $630,000. On the arbitration side, an earlier arbitration period would allow players, especially those who have advanced quickly through the minor league systems and have made a big impact at the MLB level, to get off their rookie deals sooner in order to sign larger contracts. Standout players like Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. would be helped tremendously by an earlier arbitration period because it would protect their future earnings sooner.
Commissioner of the MLB, Rob Manfred, has said this week that if the two sides were to come to an agreement the teams would need roughly a month of training and exhibition games before the regular season could begin. This timeline, if a deal were to come to together over the weekend, would make the scheduled March 31st Opening Day possible. However, it does not seem as though either side is ready to give any concessions to the new CBA and Opening Day may be postponed to at least April.
Diamond, J. (2022, February 13). Baseball's spring training will be delayed as labor talks stall. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/mlb-baseball-lockout-spring-training-11644712133
Perry, D. (2021, December 13). MLB lockout: Everything to know about baseball's first work stoppage since 1994-95. CBSSports.com. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/mlb-lockout-everything-to-know-about-baseballs- first-work-stoppage-since-1994-95/