Just after 11pm ET on Wednesday the 30 Major League Baseball team owners voted unanimously to institute a lockout of the players. At midnight the owners officially informed the Major League Baseball Players Association that they were being locked out.
There’s a lot to take in here, but let’s start with the basics. The lockout means that player trades and signings can not happen. Teams can talk to each other, but they aren’t supposed to talk to players or agents while there is a lockout.
Another key point here is that there is no reason to actually have a lockout right now. It is not something that is required when a collective bargaining agreement expires. This is being done in order to try and put pressure on the players who are free agents and break their solidarity as a union.
If you’ve been to MLB.com today you will have noticed that basically anything and everything related to current players has been removed from the website. Names, pictures, etc. – all gone and removed. That, however, is to comply with federal labor law according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
On Wednesday the MLBPA and the representation from MLB met to try and move forward with negotiations. The meeting lasted all of 7 minutes before the MLB representatives got up and left the meeting according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. Of course MLB then had the audacity to put this sentence in their press release about the lockout:
MLB is ready to work around the clock to meet that goal. I urge the Players Association to join us at the table.
Around the clock must mean something different than what it sounds like. Perhaps it was translated from hieroglyphics incorrectly? If you would like to read the statement from the Players Association, you can see that here.
As for the wants of each side – they seem to want very different things. The players want less revenue sharing because they feel too many teams are taking advantage of it to make profits rather than trying to win baseball games in order to make profits. They also want players to be paid more when they are younger and more productive because they have watched teams in the last decade stop giving out contracts to non-superstars once they reach their 30’s that pay well, leaving many players underpaid before free agency and now unable to cash in, so to speak, like players would do in the past once they get to free agency. They also want to reach free agency sooner and to close service time manipulation loopholes.
The owners seem to want more teams in the playoffs. The reason for that is probably two-fold. First is that more playoff games means a lot more money in the owners pockets. Playoff games are worth big, big bucks and being able to add a few more games is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Secondly is that by adding more teams to the playoffs it waters down how many games you need to win in order to have a shot, and that also means teams don’t have to try and be *as good* to make the playoffs. That leads to teams being less competitive in the market for talent and ultimately reduces salary across the board and makes the owners more profitable.
Sports are supposed to be competitive. As we’ve seen over the last decade, more and more teams are simply not trying to win. Between 5-year rebuilds that mostly don’t work, especially now when more and more teams are trying the same thing and thus deluding the odds of landing both the right draft pick as well as the right trade for prospects that can turn things around (not to mention teams have mostly stopped trading their top prospects because they now know just how much money they save by underpaying them before they reach free agency compared to trying to get that production on the actual market), and the ability to make money no longer being tied to ticket sales and instead to television deals (both local and national) – it feels like nearly half of the teams in the league simply aren’t trying to win.
However, despite what we can all see is happening before our eyes, MLB said in their statement “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.”
The Cleveland Guardians, who currently have an opening day payroll of $43,200,000 for the 2022 season valued their own franchise just a few weeks ago at $1,400,000,000 when they began looking for minority owners to buy in with a possibility of potentially becoming majority owners down the line. Cleveland is one of the smallest market teams in all of baseball, but values themselves as a 1.4 BILLION DOLLAR company, has a payroll set for 2022 that is less than Max Scherzer is set to make next season, and the league says that it’s the players asking for more of the revenue that would keep teams from being competitive.
It could be a long winter of nothingness. The Winter Meetings have already been cancelled with the exception of the minor league stuff. That means there will be no Major League version of the Rule 5 draft next week, though the minor league version of it will still take place because transactions involving players not on the 40-man roster can still happen since those players are not members of the MLBPA and thus not locked out.