Major League Baseball is hours away from a lockout and no progress has been made toward a new collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday and neither the owners nor the players seem to be willing to budge. If no progress is made, the owners will lock the players out, a move that would come at the worst possible time for the sport.
MLB's television ratings rose in 2021, largely on the backs of a new generation of young superstars. Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña lead a youth movement that has reenergized the game. Add in Shohei Ohtani breaking all kinds of barriers, and you've got a deep stable of talented, personable stars MLB needs. Doing anything to jeopardize the current wave the sport is riding could be disastrous.
Despite the obvious problems a lockout would cause, it appears both sides are recklessly careening toward that path. It's a tale as old as time: the players want more money and better working conditions, the owners want to spend less and make more.
The players are irked by consecutive CBAs (in 2011 and 2016) that saw them lose power and earning potential. Despite revenues increasing annually, the average player salary has dropped every year since 2017. Issues like service-time manipulation, enhanced revenue sharing, a universal designated hitter and expanding the playoffs are all on the table as well. It's a complicated mess, but according to the latest reports, the two sides are far from a deal.
Commissioner Rob Manfred needs to show some leadership for once and ensure this doesn't destroy the game he oversees. Unfortunately, that could be a lot easier said than done.
As we saw before the 2020 season, MLB owners and the MLB Players Association are nowhere near being on the same page right now. The relationship is purely adversarial. The two sides failed to agree on a ton of issues for the 2020 season but played it anyway, opting to kick the can down the road. Now that bill has come due and no one is ready to reach an accommodation.
A lockout won't be the end of the world, but if that does happen, expect it to last awhile. The real date everyone needs to be worried about is February 14, the week pitchers and catchers will report to spring training. If a deal isn't done by February 1, then this will take away from season prep time. That will impact the actual on-field product. And, as pointed out, things are at a high right now. Staunching that momentum would be ludicrous.
MLB owners and players face a litany of complex issues that need to be sorted out. They need to work quickly and come to an accord or the game itself will suffer.