By Brad Stephens, Managing Editor
Major League Baseball appears to be headed toward a work stoppage as the league and its players negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The CBA governs the on-and-off-field relationship between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The current CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1. If the league and its players cannot reach terms of a new CBA by Dec. 2, owners could lock out players and halt offseason processes like free agency. Spring training for the 2022 MLB season starts in February, with Opening Day scheduled for March 31. The longer a potential lockout drags on, the more anxious fans will become that it could affect next year’s schedule.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the media Thursday, Nov. 18 at an owners’ meeting in Chicago. He referenced fans’ unease over a work stoppage that could drag into the 2022 season and said, “our No. 1 priority is to make a deal.”
“Whatever my quote-unquote legacy turns out to be… all I can do is do the very best I can each individual day,” Manfred said, according to The Athletic. “In this circumstance, I think the best thing for the clubs and the fans is to do everything humanly possible to make an agreement.”
Manfred is a Harvard University-educated lawyer whose background is in labor and employment law. He served as outside counsel to MLB during a players’ strike that cost the league the end of its 1994 season and the beginning of its 1995 campaign.
The commissioner referenced that 1994-95 strike when talking about MLB trying “to control the timing of the labor dispute” – ostensibly through an owners’ lockout. Such a move would take away the MLBPA’s ability to strike like it did in 1994 if negotiations fell through.
“I don’t think ’94 worked out too great for anybody,” Manfred said, referencing the only year since 1905 that the World Series did not take place.
Yahoo Sports highlighted key issues affecting CBA negotiations.
One point of contention is how younger players’ years of service time affects money they make. The union has proposed increasing league-minimum salaries and allowing for arbitration earlier in players’ careers, while the MLB has countered by proposing an algorithm based on player production to replace the arbitration system entirely.
Another issue concerns competitive balance. The union believes some teams are intentionally fielding subpar rosters to save money and stockpile priority draft picks, which it says reduces the market for veteran players in free agency.
Finally, there are on-the-field matters to address. These include whether designated hitter rules will apply to both the American and National Leagues, whether the postseason will expand, and whether a pitch clock will be implemented to speed up play.
MLB and the MLBPA still have time to reach a deal before the current CBA expires.
“Look, these deals get made the last week,” Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf told NBC Sports Chicago. “It’s the same thing with players’ contracts in arbitration. They all settle the last day.”
Such an agreement would eliminate the prospect of a work stoppage and allow fans peace of mind the 2022 season will go as scheduled.
Evan Drellich, Rob Manfred says offseason MLB lockout different than one that cancels games; ‘Time is becoming an issue’, The Athletic (Nov. 18, 2021), https://theathletic.com/2964741/2021/11/18/rob-manfred-says-offseason-mlb-lockout-different-than-one-that-cancels-games-time-is-becoming-an-issue/.
Hannah Keyser, These are the 3 biggest issues that could push MLB into a lockout, Yahoo Sports (Nov. 19, 2021, 8:28 a.m.), https://sports.yahoo.com/these-are-the-3-biggest-issues-that-could-push-mlb-into-a-lockout-142826225.html.
Tim Stebbins, Manfred indicates MLB lockout could be coming, NBC Sports Chicago (Nov. 18, 2021), https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/cubs/mlb-commissioner-rob-manfred-indicates-lockout-could-be-coming.