MLB Keys, Explained: Everything there is to know about baseball’s 2021 shutdown

The inevitable has come, baseball fans. For a few years now, most people in the sport have expected that the impending expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and owners will be the cause of great controversy, to the extent that it is likely to happen. out of operation.

To avoid the kind of disruption for that reason would require substantial concessions from both parties, the kind of compromise that neither side can agree to until the last possible moment. And the truth is, December 2nd is not the last time that can happen.

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So at 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the MLB’s CBA expired and baseball shortly after began its first shutdown in 26 years. Here’s what you need to know.

Why is it possible to have an MLB key?

The bottom line: The collective bargaining agreement formed by MLB owners and the MLB Players Association in 2016 has a term of four years and expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on December 1. Since that deadline has passed without a new agreement, the owners essentially have two choices: continue to do business as usual, follow the terms of the expired agreement, and continue to negotiate. with the MLBPA in hopes of reaching a new agreement at some point in the future, or imposing a lockout, creating a sense of urgency for both sides to reach an agreement.

“We’ve come down this road,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in mid-November. as reported by The Athletic. “We were locked in ’89 – ’90. We decided to go down the road (to continue negotiations) in 1994. I don’t think ’94 worked out too well for anyone. I think when you look at other sports, the model has become to control the timing of labor disputes and try to minimize the prospect of a realistically disrupted season.”

During the lockdown, no major league free agents could sign and no trades could be made. Players don’t have access to any kind of team facilities, which is especially troubling for those who are returning to training from a serious injury. Basically, no one employed by a team in non-competition can have any form of communication with the player. The free agents have yet to sign and the players who expect to trade – especially a lot of A’s and Reds in that mix – are just stuck in limbo. And those teams with pressing roster needs they didn’t address in November – hello, Yankees and Phillies! – can tell each other all they want about what they can do, but they can’t really make anything happen.

What does MLBPA want?

Let’s start with the words of Max Scherzer, three-time winner Cy Young, who is on the MLBPA’s eight-player executive subcommittee, from a passage in The Athletic: “Unless this CBA completely solves the problem of competition and the younger players get paid, that’s the only way I’m going to put my name on it. “

First, competition: Tanks are a problem. There are too many teams in any given year that aren’t trying to win, and it’s not just the all-powerful tanks. And, to some extent, who can blame them? If they strip their squad to the bare minimum, not only will they save on wages – it’s easier to lose 105 games with minimum wage players – but they’ll also be rewarded with a high draft spot. in the next season. This acceptance of loss has reduced the market for veteran players who can still contribute. If the goal is just 70 wins, why pay a free agent $6.5 million a season when a rookie is better for the master plan at $570,000? So players hate tanks.

As for the younger players issue, currently, most players are not eligible for referee salaries until after their third season and are not eligible to become free agents until after the season. their sixth prize. Essentially, teams have complete control over wages for the first three years, and arbitration is a honing process, resulting in wages far below what they would like on the open market. One obvious solution – one that owners don’t want – is to reduce the amount of time it takes to contact the arbitrator and the free agent.

And there are other things. Not only is the MLBPA staunchly anti-salary, they also want the Competitive Balance Tax (aka luxury tax) to rise closer to the increases revenue has seen over the past five or six years. The practice of manipulating service time is one-sided and loose, and players will support language that prohibits that practice.

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What MLB Owners Want

The owners have “won” over the past few rounds of CBA negotiations, most people on both sides will tell you, so their biggest goal is to keep most things on track. One of the biggest points goals is the open knockout. More playoff teams and more playoffs mean more money, both from game-related revenue and bigger TV deals. The owners got a taste of what could happen in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, even without fans in the stands to sell tickets and franchises. Don’t expect anything similar to that year’s 16-team playoff pitch, but expect owners to step up for a 14-team playing field, or at least a 12-team setup, versus the current 10.

As always, owners want to limit how much money is spent on players, but it’s an interesting dynamic between “richer” teams and “inferior” franchises. Left to their own devices, some owners will pursue their targeted players in free agency, regardless of cost. The owners at the bottom of the spectrum want to discourage other owners from doing that because it judges they don’t have the best players. Remember the quote from Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in a story earlier this week, about the 1994 -955 strike?

“During the last strike, we never asked for more money. We never asked to be paid more. We just don’t want to cap wages,” Glavine said. “Pay us whatever you want to pay us, but we don’t want to put in place a system that gives owners artificial control over themselves in an environment they don’t want to.”

What both sides want

Just to show a bit of common ground, it should be noted that both sides favor the addition of the designated player to the National League on a full-time basis, which is why people have long had assumed it would be part of this next CBA. And, rest assured, it is. It’s a concept often referred to as Universal DH because baseball likes to make things sound a little more beautiful than they really are (like, you know, the “World” Series even though there are only enough North American teams in the world). conditions for that title).

For National League owners, the idea of ​​replacing pitchers with hitters is really appealing as they look to increase the attack – and excitement – of the games. . Also, the idea of ​​losing a high-priced pitcher to IL due to injury while kicking discs or running base became an unacceptable scenario.

As for the MLBPA, it basically adds 15 jobs to the position players. Of course, not every team will be using DH full-time, but owners will build their roster over the season – and trading term – with DH being part of the equation.

So why is Universal DH not here? Because, even if both sides want to, it is still a negotiation. We had DH in NL during the 2020 season shortening the pandemic, because of player safety. It’s been absent since 2021 because the owners used it as a bargaining chip. And as this CBA negotiation looms, the players aren’t about to see it as something only they want.

Is there a chance the MLB season gets cancelled?

That seems very unlikely. While there are a lot of issues that need to be worked out, there doesn’t seem to be anything that could cause the parties to do something so stupid (just frankly). During the 1994 dispute, the owners intended to install a wage cap and the players flatly refused. Neither of them budged (the final agreement was reached without limits, as you know). There is nothing like it in this one.

And both sides seem committed to avoiding losing even a few games, much less over an entire season. Manfred said as much when speaking to reporters in November, when he talked about the possibility of enforcing the lockdown as soon as the CBA expires. “That’s the point of it: It’s to avoid damaging the season.”

When can the lockout end?

This is a more appropriate question. Don’t expect a solution anytime soon. As we mentioned earlier this week, the frenzy of liberals in the days leading up to the CBA’s expiration is a pretty clear sign that both sides are gearing up for a winter season. cold long. I would be shocked if that happens before Christmas, and pleasantly surprised if an agreement is reached before the 2022 Hall of Fame voting results are revealed at the end of January.

The pitchers and catchers are set to report for spring training in mid-February (here’s the countdown!) And even if the spring shortens, an agreement will need to be reached by the time. that or immediately after. If this extends to March, you’re looking at a shortened regular season schedule, or a regular seasonal calendar that’s been pushed back from the scheduled March 31 Opening Day.

Take the 1990 lockdown as an example. The CBA expired on December 31, 1989, and the owners officially began locking the doors on February 15. Finally, on March 19, an agreement was reached. Spring training was significantly shortened and the season started a week late, on April 9.

One big difference at this point: After all the lost revenue (ticketing, etc.), since the shortened season and few 2020 fans, you can be sure that the owners don’t want the Spring training games are wiped out if possible.

When was the last MLB job stoppage?

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? The last stoppage was due to a player strike, which canceled the 1994 World Series and caused the 1995 season to be shortened to 144 games. It was by far the worst labor dispute incident in baseball history, but it wasn’t the only one. this is a Full list of downtime between owners and players since the first time in 1972.

What is the difference between a strike and a strike?

Lock is ownership that says “you can’t work for us until you agree to a new deal.” One strike is the employee (player, in this case) says “we won’t work for you until you agree to a new deal.”

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