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MLB lockout now official, commissioner Rob Manfred announces

Vincent Frank
MLB lockout
Oct 26, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred before game one of the 2021 World Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

There was no 11th-hour deal between the league and Players’ Association to avoid the first MLB lockout in over a quarter-century.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a letter to fans of the game early Thursday morning announcing what had seemingly become inevitable. Owners have opted to lock players out following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

“That is why I am so disappointed about the situation in which our game finds itself today. Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labor peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired,” Manfred wrote in an open letter, via the official MLB.com website. “Therefore, we have been forced to commence a lockout of Major League players, effective at 12:01am ET on December 2.”

The embattled commissioner continued.

“I want to explain to you how we got here and why we have to take this action today. Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time,” Manfred weote. :This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”

In total, there were roughly seven minutes of meetings between MLB and the union on Wednesday, hours before the MLB lockout was set to begin. This is a clear indication that the two sides are not even close on the finances and other aspects of the labor strife.

Players’ Association responds to MLB lockout

MLB lockout
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In what can’t be considered too much of a surprise, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark responded to the work stoppage by blaming the league and its owners.

“Major League Baseball has announced a lockout of the players, shutting down our industry. This shutdown is a dramatic measure, regardless of the timing. It is not required by law or for any other reason. It was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure Players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just players, but the game and industry as a whole.

These tactics are not new. We have been here before, and Players have risen to the occasion time and again — guided by a solidarity that has been forged over generations. We will do so again here. We remain determined to return to the field under the terms of a negotiated collective bargaining agreement that is fair to all parties and provides fans with the best version of the game we all love.”

Union statement on MLB lockout

The blame game is in no way shocking. That’s natural when it comes to labor strife and is not limited to the professional sports world.

At issue here more than anything are the finances and revenue share split. The average MLB salary has fallen 6.4% since 2017 and the median salary is down 30% from a record high two years before that. There’s also an issue when it comes to service time and salaries for young players that has acted as a hold up.

“There’s also a feeling among players that front offices have become very good at manipulating the system to their advantage. … We want to make changes designed to incentivize competition for players, and remove disincentives for that competition,” the union said. “We want to find ways to get players compensated at an earlier stage of their careers when the teams are valuing them the most. And we want to preserve the fundamental principles of a market system.”

The good news here is that this lockout is taking place during the off-season with more than two months to go before the start of Spring Training. The bad news? These two sides appear to be too far apart for a quick resolution to the labor strife.

It’s the first time MLB has been out of business since back in 1995. Said MLB lockout lasted north of 230 days and led to the cancelation of the 1994 World Series.