The New York Yankees and all of major league baseball went into lockout when the owners and the players couldn’t come to an agreement on a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement). This is the first work stoppage in baseball in 27 years. Although there are some differences, it is like 1994 all over again. This is a lockout by the owners; in 1994, it was a walkout by the players; nevertheless, the result is the same, no baseball interactions by any of the parties involved until a new agreement can be reached.
For all practical purposes, it means the players and owners can’t talk to each other. That means no trades, no more insane contracts offered to players, coaches can’t even work with players. Pitchers and catchers are to report to spring training in February, but they won’t be getting any instruction from trainers, coaches, or manager Aaron Boone. It has yet to be seen if players are locked out of spring training sites. Depending on the lockout length (in 1994, it was seven and half months), the 2022 season may not start on time or may not be played at all.
For baseball fans everywhere, most find both sides responsible, the players who are crying after making millions a year to play a game they love and the owners for being just as greedy. Forgetting the issues for a moment and looking deep into the responsibility for the lockout, it gets quite confusing. Without the owners, the ballplayers have no job. The owners spend millions on new ballparks, refurbishing older ones, paying players, in some cases insane amounts to play, and all the other associated costs of putting on a ballgame. This is not to recognize that owners make revenues from ticket sales, merchandise, and TV revenues.
On the player’s part, yes, most struggle in the early years of their careers in the minors, with relatively low pay and, in some cases, substandard living conditions that have significantly improved in recent years. But the reality is, isn’t that true of most workers, no matter what career they choose, the more considerable earnings come with time and experience. An example across all careers is that in the early years, you may have to share an apartment with a friend to get by, but after, say, 10 years, you may be able to afford a home. The big difference between the average Joe and a baseball player is that Joe will likely never make millions a year.
This writer tends to side with the owners who have much more at stake than the players do. However, the ballplayers do have some issues that should be addressed in their favor. The owners have supported a salary cap forever, but the players will have no part of that. If you think about it, a player that is paid $43 million a year to start 25-30 games in the course of a season makes nearly a million and a half dollars to pitch five or six innings. That is insane when an average family of four can’t afford to attend a ballgame. Not to dwell on the subject, but think about it a second. That pitcher makes more money in between pitches in one game than the ticket buyer makes annually.
To understand the work stoppage, let’s take a look at other stoppages through the years:
- 1972: Players struck over a pension dispute. It lasted about two weeks, disrupting the 1972 season.
- 1973: The owners locked out the player over salary arbitration during spring training that year.
- 1976: Owner lockout during spring training over the evolving issue of player-free agency.
- 1980: In 1980, if issue of free agency again halted spring training.
- 1981: Players strike over free-agent compensation. The 1981 season was nearly destroyed when two months of playing time was lost.
- 1985: Players strike over pension fund and salary arbitration. This stoppage only lost two games of the season.
- 1990: Owner lockout over salary arbitration and free agency. Began during spring training, causing a delay in the start of the 1990 season.
- The 1995 season was significantly abbreviated. 1994: Players strike largely over owners’ desire to implement a salary cap. This happened in August and canceled the remainder of the season, including the postseason. At the time, the Yankees were 70-43. Play resumed only after a federal judge reinstated terms of the previous CBA.
- 2021: Owners lockout players when agreement is not evident. Players want more money sooner in their careers and want owners to stop manipulating how long a player remains in the minors. The union also wants a luxury tax overhaul to lure teams to spend more on player salaries without fear of harsh tax penalties. The players also want a higher beginning salary that now stands at $570,000. These are just some of the issues that have not been resolved. It should be pointed out that if no progress is made, the sides could agree to keep the present agreement in force to prevent the loss of the 2022 season.
For fans, they see both sides of the issues, not being sincere and willing to work together to make the game better for the sake of the fan and the game itself. Every time there is a work stoppage, fans leave the sport.
The biggest target for disgruntled fans is Commissioner Rob Manfred that has a very low approval rating that is near the bottom of the trash can. For Yankee fans, they will never forgive him for not stripping the Houston Astros of their 2017 World Series win after it was proved that they cheated. That aside, he has not been seen as doing what if best for the game. One thing that should be known about Manfred is that he is a graduate of Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and has a law degree from Harvard. He should be the perfect person to resolve these issues but has failed.
“Things like a shortened reserve period, $100 million reduction in revenue sharing, and salary arbitration for the whole two-year class are bad for the sport, bad for the fans, and bad for competitive balance,” Manfred recited on Thursday, while noting that the players have not budged on any of these issues. He also said the owners have already made concessions.”
“While we have heard repeatedly that free agency is ‘broken’ — in the month of November $1.7 billion was committed to free agents, smashing the prior record by nearly 4x,” Manfred penned, likely echoing what he’s heard from the crybaby billionaires whose collective interest he represents. “By the end of the offseason, Clubs will have committed more money to players than in any offseason in MLB history.”
In addition to the issues at hand, the players believe the owners have had their way in recent agreements and are not going to let that happen again. Tony Clark, leader of the players union, has been less verbal about the lack of an agreement, but he did say on Thursday:
“From the outset, it seems as if the league has been more interested in the appearance of bargaining than bargaining itself,” said Clark, who then stressed that M.L.B. wasn’t required to impose a lockout. He added, “And contrary to the statement that imposing a lockout would be helpful in bringing negotiations to a conclusion, players consider it unnecessary and provocative. This lockout won’t pressure or intimidate players into a deal that they don’t believe is fair.”
With the sides still very far apart, and neither side willing to work in good faith, it spells for a very long work stoppage, as seen by most industry insiders. Stay with EmpireSportsMedia.com for all the latest developments.
EmpireSportsMedia.com’s columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.