MLB in Lockout: What that Means for You

If you know anything about the world of baseball, you know about the current state of Major League Baseball: LOCKOUT. The lockout came on December 2, 2021, after MLB owners decided to enact a lockout upon the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) from 2016, stopping work and raising tensions between the MLB organization and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). Most people expected the lockout to last for a shorter amount of time, but after no signs of cooperation from either side, the lockout is still ongoing. With opening day approaching very quickly, the major question for all of us in the baseball world remains: Will the lockout affect our ability to start the 2022 season?

What to know about MLB Lockouts:

You’re probably wondering what exactly a lockout is and why it happens, so I’m here to give you all the information you need to understand just what’s going on in the MLB. This season’s lockout comes as the ninth in MLB history and ends 27 seasons of peace between the MLB and the MLBPA. This decision was made as a result of officials not being able to make a decision about a new CBA for the 2022 season, causing owners to not allow the offseason to happen without an agreement. A lockout is essentially a stoppage of work enacted by the owners of the teams during a labor dispute. In the MLB, this looks like the freezing of the free agency process and the discontinued use of all team facilities, leaving players and MLB hopefuls out to dry essentially.   

Despite heightened tensions on both sides of the issue, MLB officials and members of the MLBPA do still have the ability to try to negotiate with each other. These negotiations could include anything from increasing rookie salaries to maintaining the status of the league’s current revenue streams. While these negotiations are allowed and encouraged, the pride and strong stance of each side stand in the way of these meetings actually solving the lockout issue. At this point, it’s become a war over who can stay strong in the fight the longest.

How this affects MLB players:

During this time, players are not allowed to sign major league contracts, participate in team activities, use team facilities, or speak to team officials, making it extremely difficult to prepare for the upcoming season. The only possible exception to these rules is rehabilitation for injuries or mental health treatments by team professionals, but these decisions are made on a team-by-team basis. Although they might not be getting the top-notch care or training they are used to within their organization, players are managing to find ways to stay on top of their game and their health in this season of unknowns. 

As far as payment is concerned, the lockout doesn’t really affect players or their salaries much. Organizations are required to provide payment for anything done before the lockout was initiated, including signing bonuses and deferred compensation, but players will not receive any additional payment until the official season starts. Players that were a part of a 40 man roster last season are entitled to medical benefits provided by the league until the scheduled start of the 2022 season. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement anytime soon and the lockout lasts past the official start date of the season, the MLBPA will use its own resources to provide the same benefits to the players. 

Progress made so far:

Since the lockout began in early December, it seems like there hasn’t been much progress made in solving the problem at hand. The two sides have met a handful of times, but obviously, no resolution has been made in finding a way to stop the lockout and get players back on the field with their teams.  

The first meeting happened on December 20, but they only discussed issues like the All-Star game, special events, and drug and domestic violence policies, rather than the bigger economic issues that will solve the issue of the lockout altogether. The second meeting came after a 43-day drought in communication by both sides and included mention of raising the competitive-balance-tax threshold, concerns over poor-performing teams, and changes to the previously expired CBA.  

The latest update by the league came after their most recent meeting that included a heated discussion by both players and owners on both sides. Those present at the face-to-face meeting discussed what is known as “core economic issues” involved in the current state of the baseball industry. With more chat about salary arbitration, service time manipulation, free agency timelines, and disincentivizing tanking of poor ranking teams, members on both sides are hopeful a negotiation could be agreed upon before pitchers and catchers are expected to report on February 15. Whether this actually happens or not, we’ll have to wait and see, but at least the communication drought between both sides is over and conversations are being had about the future of the league. 

When to worry about the fate of the season:

As for the fate of season ticket holders and other avid baseball fans, we’re all asking ourselves the same question: Will the 2022 MLB season be postponed or even canceled? As the lockout enters its 3rd month and we are now just over 50 days away from Opening Day, anyone interested or involved in the league is feeling a bit nervous about plans for the upcoming season.  

Will a decision be made in time for pitchers and catchers to report? If a decision is made soon, will players have enough time to properly prepare for their spring games? If no decision is made by early March, will the MLB season be delayed? What’s the possibility of the season getting canceled?

These questions are just a few of the many that have been circulating through the baseball world during this lockout period. And, while we don’t have all the answers to these, try not to worry too much yet! In recent weeks, some progress has been made as far as negotiations between the MLB and MLBPA are concerned, but there is still quite a long way to go until the season can get underway. This recent timeline has made it a little easier to judge the fate of the season:

  • If a negotiation isn’t reached by February 8, chances of pitchers and catchers reporting on February 15 are slim to none.
  • If the two sides can’t agree by February 19, you may want to start considering asking for a refund on those season tickets.
  • If no decision has been made by March 3, there won’t be enough time for players and teams to prepare themselves for Opening Day on March 31.

Common ground could be reached tomorrow or it could be reached in a month from now. The upcoming weeks are full of what-ifs, but as people in the baseball world during this season of lockout, we just have to sit back and wait. Obviously, making a quick decision would be ideal for everyone involved, it’s also important to make sure each side’s concerns are heard and respected throughout the negotiation process. So, while we might get a little impatient waiting to know the fate of the season, waiting a little longer to reach a fair decision between sides might just be worth it for us.