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MLB lockout not close to ending, no talks scheduled

Matt Johnson
MLB lockout
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB lockout is rolling into January and with 2022 spring training just over a month away, things don’t look promising for baseball to return anytime soon.

Major League Baseball team owners implemented a lockout on Dec. 2, following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. While commissioner Rob Manfred and club owners and the MLB Players Association held meetings in December regarding the work stoppage, Sports Illustrated reported the two sides never held joint talks and no offers were made.

Many expected that talks would resume in January after owners and union reps had time to take a step back during the holidays. But with spring training. But with pitchers and catchers scheduled to report for spring training on Feb. 14, there are no signs of the MLB lockout ending anytime soon.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that there are no negotiations scheduled between MLB and the players association. While the two sides met twice in December, the talks never focused on the economic issues of a new collective bargaining agreement.

When will the MLB lockout end?

One important thing to note, an MLB lockout can only be implemented and ended by team owners. It’s different from a labor strike, the only avenue of leverage players have in negotiations with MLB. It’s also important to consider the limited history of MLB lockouts in baseball.

  • 1973 MLB lockout: No canceled games
  • 1976 MLB lockout: No canceled games
  • 1990 MLB lockout: No canceled games

Lockouts are rare in all sports and it has never led to games being canceled. But there is a real possibility that changes in 2022. The 1973 and ’76 lockouts lasted less than a month while the ’90 lockout stretched from Feb. 15 – March 18.

The fact that MLB and the MLBPA aren’t even talking about economic issues is a bad sign. It’s the source of the most division between the two sides, with players strongly feeling owners are guilty of collusion, service-time manipulation and tanking just to reduce player salaries.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a shortened 2020 season, MLB enjoyed record-setting revenue ($10.3 billion in 2019) every year. While the total revenue for 2021 isn’t publicly known, the Atlanta Braves set franchise records for revenue before winning the World Series.

Despite MLB’s profits increasing with new TV contracts signed, player salaries are dropping. The Associated Press found in April 2021 that MLB salaries dropped 4.8% in two years and Forbes reported in December that total payrolls were reduced by $168 million from the 2019 season.

More than ever, the players’ union seems determined to correct its mistakes from the last CBA by pulling in a more equal share of the revenue. But with backlash from fans largely centered on Manfred and not the owners he is representing, the MLB lockout could impact Opening Day 2022.