Lockout - What does it Mean?
As of 12:01am Eastern, baseball went into the dreaded lockout. This is the first time in nearly 3 decades there has been a work stoppage in baseball. The last time was when the players when on strike in 1994 during the season, which resulted in no World Series. This has been expected for over a year now. Some may not know what it means for us fans and players. How can it end? How is it different from a strike? Is it different?
Let's start with the difference between a lockout and a strike. A strike is initiated by the MLBPA (the players union). This is the same thing when a company's employee's go on strike. For example, a few weeks ago, the employees at John Deere went on strike. They initiated that. This is what happened in 1994. A lockout is initiated by the owners. What is a lockout? To put is simply, they are preventing the players from working with their clubs, essentially shutting down MLB entirely.
Why would the owners lockout the players? Both the players and owners have to agree to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Since they did not reach an agreement when the previous CBA expired at midnight, owners imposed the lockout to pressure MLBPA to agree to their terms. MLB Commissioner, who works for the owners, came out with a letter shortly after the lockout stating that "owners have been forced to commence a lockout...because the Player's Association's vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive." I find that a little harsh.
Here are some of the key points that owners and MLBPA are looking to agree upon:
Luxury tax thresholds for clubs
Universal DH is expected to happen by most. During the Covid shortened 2020 season, they played with a universal DH. Players seem to want that, however, owners have been tying that together with expanded playoffs, which is, if I'm not mistaken, something the players don't necessarily want. In 2020, in order to have the universal DH, playoffs were expanded to 16 teams, 8 from each league. The latest proposal was laughable, in my opinion: 14 teams (7 from each league). Best record gets a bye, the other 2 division winners would choose which wild card team to play, with the final 2 wild card teams facing each other. The wild card round would be best of 3 at the higher seed stadium. This would give teams bulletin board material, something that I think the majority of teams want to stay away from. This would also mean, in a sport where momentum matters, the team with the best record would be forced to rest longer. I'm not quite sure what the solution to this would be, but I think 7 teams for each league is a bit much.
For years, teams have manipulated service time for their prospects in order to gain an extra year of control before the player becomes a free agent. The most famous one is Kris Bryant. Currently, players become free agents after completing 6 years of service time. One proposal is to switch to an age based free agency. One number thrown around has been 29.5, which would mean once the player turns 29.5, the player may become a free agent following the season. The downside to this that I have seen is that this may limit the contracts the super star players may get. For example, the Padres may not want to give Fernando Tatis, Jr his megadeal knowing they have him longer than expected.
What does this mean for players? We are in the middle of free agency. The past week, we saw numerous players sign to contracts. However, there may be no major league activity until an agreement is made. That means players like Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, and Trevor Story will remain without a contract until the conclusion of this disagreement. This is something that is expected to last months. Both sides have been said they hope to avoid this costing time in spring training and regular season games. I would hope something is done before Valentine's Day. If not, that's when you are going to start seeing a reduction of spring training games. If this lasts into March, I would expect the regular season is delayed.
The weird thing about this is that on the Cardinals website, there is no mention to any players in the promotions and pictures have been removed from their rosters.
It's a odd thing to see. As a big fan of the game in general, I hope this gets resolved sooner rather than later. Until then, we will continue to predict who the Cardinals will sign or trade for after the agreement. There are still a few places that Mozeliak & Co. wants to improve, but until an agreement is made, nothing can be done.