The collective bargaining agreement (more commonly referred to as the CBA) expired on Wednesday for the first time in nearly two decades as owners immediately locked out players. The move threatens both Spring Training and Opening Day, and the annual Winter Meetings of the General Managers of each team have been cancelled, though Minor League proceedings will continue.
The strategy mirrors that of a strike under federal law, as management has effectively ended the sport’s labor peace after 9,740 days spanning over 26 and a half years.
This lockout differs from that in 1994 as it’s happening during the offseason as opposed to the middle of Summer, when players walked out and halted the season. Four consecutive agreements between players and management have been made, but they’ve been barreling towards a clash for more than two years.
Talks began last week between management and players but ended finally on Wednesday night after a minutes-long session that resulted in both sides being lengths apart on dozens of key economic issues. A different, though still brief meeting between MLB’s 30 controlling owners to reaffirm their lockout decision, and MLB delivered the announcement in an emailed letter to the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association).
Effective immediately, players are banished from team workout facilities and weight rooms while perhaps also freezing interest in fans to purchase tickets for next season.
What’s important to know is that the union demanded change following anger over a declining average salary, as middle-class players have been forced out by teams that are concentrating payroll on the wealthy and free-agent veterans in favor of lower-paid youth. This is especially the case among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild.
Although he recently signed the largest AAV contract the league has ever seen, pitcher Max Scherzer said back in 2016 that “As players, [they] see major problems with [the collective bargaining agreement].” He continued, “First and foremost, we see a competition problem and how teams are behaving because of certain rules that are within that, and adjustments have to be made because of that in order to bring out the competition.”
Pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training activities on February 16th, so eleven weeks separate the lockout from the start of preseason. That’s roughly 70 days to reach a deal enabling players and the league to have an on-time start. Opening Day is set for March 31st, and there’s a required minimum of three weeks of organized workouts for players to prepare for the start of the season. Let the waiting game begin, baseball fans.