Major League Baseball has now been mired in a lockout for over a month and as of now, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA head Tony Clark haven’t brought the two sides together since before the holiday season. The expectation was that they would meet again sometime after the new year, though nothing has been scheduled.
In the past discussions before the calendar flipped to 2022, all indications were that very little progress had been made when it came to some of the most pressing issues that each side was fighting for. As we are now in the new year, time is starting to become an issue and the next several weeks of negotiations are going to be of extreme importance.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in the middle of February, the chances of a new agreement not being reached this month could increase the chances of delaying spring training, in turn delaying the start of the regular season. Shortening spring training would not seem to be a viable option, as players would want ample time to build up strength and conditioning to decrease the likelihood of suffering injuries.
If the negotiations do indeed trickle past the point where a shortened season would need to be implemented, it would be an unfortunate look for the game for a couple of reasons. Now, one of those reasons is completely out of the control of Major League Baseball, and that is that the 2020 season already was limited to just 60 games due to the pandemic, so it would mark twice in three years that a full slate of games wasn’t played.
The second blemish is that there are already concerns about baseball’s marketability, especially to a younger demographic of fans. The strike of 1994-1995 alienated fans across the country for years on end. Not to say that a potential lockout in 2022 would be as seismic, but either way missing even one game is not something the sport can endure.
The game needs exposure and hopefully better exposure as part of the new CBA to appeal to more fans not only in the United States, but across the globe. With out exposure, there is nothing, and baseball could quickly become an afterthought.
As the two sides come back together, they will have a wide-range of topics to sort through — some regarding the economics, some regarding on-field decisions, etc. The main focuses that have been made public include minimum salaries, arbitration/free agency threshold, luxury tax/salary floor, universal designated hitter and much more.
The clock is ticking and the pressure has been turned up for each side to negotiate in good faith and find a way for an agreement to be reached. These next few weeks will need to be monitored closely as we should see indications on how the discussions are playing out, and if we should be hopeful or not.