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History of Major League Baseball Work Stoppages

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Major League Baseball is currently in the 11th day of the lockout as the league and the players’ association try and reach an deal to enact a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The old CBA expired at the beginning of the month, and Major League offseason activity has halted because of it. If the lockout drags on as we move closer to and eventually into 2022, the risk of delaying the start of the regular season grows.

It’s not the first time the sport has seen a work stoppage but it is the first time it has happened during the 21st century. In fact, this is the ninth time total that Major League Baseball activities have been paused, though just three have resulted in missing games.

Perhaps the most infamous work stoppage was the strike that took place at the end of the 1994 season that trickled into 1995, delaying the start of that season. In total, nearly 1,000 regular season games were cancelled between the two seasons, and the 1994 World Series never took place, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of fans across the country. The stain on the sport was unprecedented and alienated fans – some even for life. Prior to the current lockout, this strike was the last time baseball had a work stoppage.

The other two time instances where games were cancelled were in 1981 (nearly two months of the regular season) and 1972, a much briefer stoppage where 86 games across the league were missed. The main issues in 1981 dealt with free agency and its restrictions and in 1972, the focus for the players was in regards to their pension. Both these instances were the results of strikes, not a lockout.

There have been three other times that the league has motioned for a lockout – 1973, 1976 and 1990. No games were missed during any of these past three instances. A strike in 1985 occurred where a few games were missed, but they were made up at the end of the season.

The causes for the previous work stoppages are similar to the matters pressing the current situation – Free agency, player salaries, arbitration, etc.

The current hope, and maybe even the expectation – at least for now, is that a new collective bargaining agreement will be agreed to before the start of the regular season is put in jeopardy. Tensions are currently high between the two parties, however, and the hope is that things don’t boil over to the point of where another situation arises like what happened in 1994-95.

Major League Baseball cannot afford to miss any games during the 2022 season. Between the 60-game 2020 season and the current state of the game in general, there is way too much at stake to not get a deal done as quickly as possible. For now, not much has been made public in terms of the current state of negotiations and how much progress has been made.

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