The collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place, leading to the first official work stoppage in more than 25 years.
At 12:01 Thursday morning, the league informed the players that it had locked them out, marking the first management lockout since the 1994–95 seasons, when a strike led to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.
The last five-year labor agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA was negotiated in 2016 and signed on Nov. 30, 2021 and addressed everything from nutrition and travel to minimum salaries and random drug tests.
League and union negotiators had spent three days in Irving, Texas, this week trying to reach a deal on the new agreement, which dictates the way that MLB, its owners, and players operate, but talks ended after seven minutes Wednesday, ESPN reported.
The main dispute holding both sides back from coming to a new agreement centers around pay, with players arguing that not enough of the game’s billion-dollar revenue returns to them.
Players are also unhappy with the rules surrounding “free agency.” Players are required to perform six years of service before becoming free agents, meaning that they can sign with any club for any terms to which the two parties can agree. But MLB players want that rule to change so that they are at a younger age and in their prime when they are eligible for free agency.
In a letter to fans, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said: “Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labor peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired. Therefore, we have been forced to commence a lockout of Major League players, effective at 12:01am ET on December 2.”
“Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time,” Manfred said.
“This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”
Under the lockout, teams aren’t permitted to speak with players, and cannot make new signings, while players are not allowed to use team facilities until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
Meanwhile, Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, said in a statement: “This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the Players’ resolve to reach a fair contract. We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and advances the rights and benefits of our membership.”
As of yet, there is no indication as to when a deal will be reached but the 2022 Major League Baseball season is scheduled to begin on March 31 and end on Oct. 2.
MLB confirmed on Twitter that the Major League portion of the 2021 Winter Meetings are canceled but the Minor Leagues will continue as planned.