MLB lockdown begins as owners and players remain deadlocked

Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger (35) steals the second base as St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Tommy Edman (19) takes the late pitch in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium .

Robert Hanashiro | USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball’s collective agreement officially expired at midnight Thursday and team owners voted to lock out players after failing to strike a new deal.

Shortly after midnight, the MLB Players Association called the shutdown “a dramatic step.”

“It was the owners’ choice, clear and simple, specifically calculated to pressure players to forgo their rights and benefits, and abandon good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not only the players, but the game and the industry as a whole, ”the MLBPA said in a statement.

The MLBPA, however, said it remains committed to crafting a negotiated CBA that is “fair to all parties and gives fans the best version of the game we all love.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred defended the lockout as “necessary”, saying MLBPA’s vision for the league “would threaten the ability of most teams to compete.”

Deputy League Commissioner Dan Halem and MLBPA negotiator Bruce Meyer met in Dallas on Wednesday. Still, talks ended with parties left on the sidelines on the issues.

The work stoppage is the ninth in MLB history and the first since a players’ strike in 1994. This labor dispute lasted 232 days and MLB owners also called off the 1994 World Series due to strike.

In his letter, Manfred said: “We cannot allow an expired agreement to again cause an in-season strike and failed World Series, as we experienced in 1994. We owe you all, our fans , better than that. “

But with another lockdown in place, a $ 10 billion industry is now frozen.

Player transactions are halted and clubs are now prohibited from contacting players during the offseason until the lockout is lifted. In addition, the MLB winter meetings, scheduled for December 6-9 in Orlando, will be canceled.

The work stoppage comes amid a free agent frenzy that has seen more than $ 2 billion in deals negotiated. The deals include the Texas Rangers’ $ 325 million contract to land shortstop Corey Seager, and the New York Mets have awarded pitcher Max Scherzer a three-year, $ 130 million contract.

Still, players believe the current ABCs don’t favor them; therefore, they are looking for changes.

MLBPA wants to address the time-of-service rules that limit most young players to teams for the first six years of their careers. The union also wants an overhaul of the luxury tax to encourage teams to spend more on player salaries without fear of heavy tax penalties.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. and Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark speak at a press conference ahead of Game 3 of the Championship Round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic between Team United States and Team Puerto Rico on Wednesday, March 22. , 2017 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.

Alex Trautwig | Major League Baseball | Getty Images

In the current collective agreement, teams that exceed the MLB payroll threshold are taxed between 20% and 95% depending on repeat status.

The union wants to change the structure of MLB free agencies so that young stars get paid earlier and seek more money, including an increase in minimum wages, which stand at $ 570,500.

Player salaries fell for the third year in a row, according to the Associated Press. The outlet estimated the average MLB player salary to be $ 3.7 million for the 2021 season. This is down from a record high of $ 4.1 million in 2017.

More playoff inventory

Meanwhile, MLB’s proposals include a $ 100 million minimum wage to fight teams that don’t spend enough on players. Team owners have also offered a $ 1 billion pool to replace wage arbitration.

The point is, these articles are unlikely to be accepted. What the owners really want is more playoff games and increase the number of clubs vying for a World Series from 10 to 14.

Atlanta Braves’ No.5 Freddie Freeman celebrates with No.22 Joc Pederson after hitting a solo home run against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning of Game 6 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 02, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Carmen Mandato | Getty Images

This would help increase the media rights money, as the bulk of MLB’s national television revenue comes from playoff games.

Fox will start paying MLB for its $ 5.1 billion contract in 2022, and WarnerMedia has agreed to a package of more than $ 3 billion to retain its rights to MLB.

But if MLB landed more playoff inventory, ESPN would have the exclusive rights to all Wild Card games as part of a $ 4 billion package.

February the actual deadline?

With many issues to negotiate, few MLB circles expect this lockdown to be resolved quickly.

“I think they [MLBPA] are determined to gain ground, ”said former MLB executive Marty Conway. “At the baseball level, this is the system of determining free agency, which the owners and operators of baseball have complete control over.

“It will take weeks to see reasonable progress,” he added.

Conway, now a professor of sports management at Georgetown University, has suggested February 2022 would be a more realistic deadline as clubs and players prepare for spring training.

“There is a lot of money for everyone,” Conway said. “This negotiation will be more about how it is shared and about the future of the people who participate in this income pie.”

In his letter, Manfred said the lockout would not necessarily result in game cancellations, saying the league has taken “that step now because it is speeding up the urgency of a deal with as much lead as possible to avoid to affect the 2022 season ”.

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