Updated: Jul 28, 2022
We are in the midst of a lockout in Major League Baseball. This is not the first employment dispute in the sport. This article addresses the history of labor unrest in baseball and how it impacts the parties involved.
There have been eight strikes and lockouts in Major League Baseball history, and there are a few differences that separate the two. Generally speaking, during a strike, the workers tell management that they are not going to show up. In a lockout, the management tells the workers not to show up . What is important to note about this specific lockout is the timing. If this lockout had occurred halfway through the season, the league is then open to a strike, since players are then playing while not receiving their base salaries. While players still receive bonuses and deferred salary payments, these numbers are minute as compared to the major base salaries that players are receiving nowadays.
The timing of this lockout is, of course, hurting the players. Free agents are not able to even begin negotiating new contracts, and losing this precious time is very impactful, as injuries can happen at any time. Not to mention that doing any activity and getting a major injury all but ends hopes of being on a team or maximizing the chances of getting a major contract. Not to mention, if players are hurt or rehabbing injuries, a lockout prevents them from accessing the team facilities, which can be a major roadblock when trying to recover from injury. Recovery progress from major injuries can also be a mitigating factor in terms of negotiating contract extensions, so the closing of team facilities is even more damaging.
Though one argument that can be made against the impact of the lockout on major free agents is that the best players will end up on teams anyway, the same cannot be said for the more mid-tier free agents. With the major players soaking up major contracts (for example Max Scherzer signing with the Mets for $130 million over three years ), little salary space is left for the mid-tier players, with the minimum salaries being more prevalent than ever. This can be seen in the salary reductions of mid-tier free agents thus far in free agency such as Mark Melancon (saves leader in 2021 could only manage a 1 year, $3 million deal ). This example is going to be a new trend, and it is only the beginning. It is unfair all around, with the owners locking the players out, and forcing them to try to give up even more of their share of the money baseball takes in, even though they control a small portion of the pie as it is.
So, it is clear that the winners of this lockout are the owners, and the obvious losers are the players. The power balance is already tipped in favor of the owners anyway, and it will just keep going further depending on how long this lockout lasts. The only hope is that this ends before February, with Spring training checks being handed out at that time, but if we get to that point without a resolution, then it’s a whole different ballgame and a completely different conversation.
For the sake of the fans and the players, let’s just hope it doesn’t get there.
Jon Trusz is a Junior at the University of Connecticut studying Political Science and Communications, and can be reached on LinkedIn under his name, or by email at [email protected].