Major League Baseball team owners have locked out players in a fight over the game’s future economic structure, causing the sport’s first work halt since the strike that canceled the 1994 World Series.
During negotiations this week in Irving Texas, the two sides failed to come to a consensus for a new collective bargaining agreement, which expired on Wednesday. Management immediately called for a lockout, freezing all off-season transactions, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a statement. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.
“This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the players’ resolve to reach a fair contract,” union executive director Tony Clark said in a statement. “We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and advances the rights and benefits of our membership.”
Indeed, players are seeking changes to a system they believe is broken. A big piece of contention is the competitive landscape, specifically the rise of “tanking,” a rebuilding strategy in which teams make their rosters worse to save money and gain draft picks for the future.
Manfred said the union’s vision “would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive” and said it’s “simply not a viable option.”
Per the Wall Street Journal:
The owners don’t share the union’s position that an overhaul is necessary. They’ve shown little interest in fundamentally reshaping several key, longstanding tenets of the system, such as the time required to reach free agency, the salary arbitration process and revenue sharing among teams. In his statement, Manfred said the union’s vision “would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive” and called it “simply not a viable option.”
Management argues that the players receive a fair share of the game’s overall revenues and have balked at any proposal that involves increasing their take. Rather, the league sees the issue as one of wealth distribution: that a small number of highly rewarded superstars command a disproportionate amount of the money allocated to players, creating economic inequality and a shrinking middle class.