MLB owners lock out players, 1st work stoppage since 1995

Dec 1, 2021, 1:16 PM | Updated: Dec 2, 2021, 11:00 am
New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso walks to his position between innings of the team's basebal...

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso walks to his position between innings of the team's baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on June 17, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Major League Baseball plunged into its first work stoppage in a quarter-century when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night and owners immediately locked out players in a move that threatens spring training and opening day.

The strategy, management’s equivalent of a strike under federal labor law, ended the sport’s labor peace after 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years.

Teams decided to force the long-anticipated confrontation during an offseason rather than risk players walking out during the summer, as they did in 1994. Players and owners had successfully reached four consecutive agreements without a work stoppage, but they have been accelerating toward a clash for more than two years.

“We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time. 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.”

Talks that started last spring ended Wednesday after a brief session of mere minutes with the sides far apart on the dozens of key economic issues. Management’s negotiators left the union’s hotel about nine hours before the deal lapsed at 11:59 p.m. EST.

MLB’s 30 controlling owners held a brief digital meeting to reaffirm their lockout decision, and MLB delivered the announcement of its fourth-ever lockout — to go along with five strikes — in an emailed letter to the Major League Baseball Players Association.

“This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the players’ resolve to reach a fair contract,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement. “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.”

This stoppage began 30 days after Atlanta’s World Series win capped a complete season following a pandemic-shortened 2020 played in empty ballparks.

The lockout’s immediate impacts were a memo from MLB to clubs freezing signings, the cancellation of next week’s annual winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, and banishing players from team workout facilities and weight rooms while perhaps chilling ticket sales for 2022.

The union demanded change following anger over a declining average salary, middle-class players forced out by teams concentrating payroll on the wealthy and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid youth, especially among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild.

“As players we see major problems with it,” New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer said of the 2016 agreement. “First and foremost, we see a competition problem and how teams are behaving because of certain rules that are within that, and adjustments have to be made because of that in order to bring out the competition.”

Eleven weeks remain until pitchers and catchers are to report for spring training on Feb. 16, leaving about 70 days to reach a deal allowing for an on-time start. Opening day is set for March 31, and a minimum of three weeks of organized workouts have been required in the past.

Management, intent on preserving salary restraints gained in recent decades, rejected the union’s requests for what teams regarded as significant alterations to the sport’s economic structure, including lowering service time needed for free agency and salary arbitration.

“We offered to establish a minimum payroll for all clubs to meet for the first time in baseball history; to allow the majority of players to reach free agency earlier through an age-based system that would eliminate any claims of service time manipulation; and to increase compensation for all young players,” Manfred wrote. “When negotiations lacked momentum, we tried to create some by offering to accept the universal designated hitter, to create a new draft system using a lottery similar to other leagues.”

Many clubs scrambled to add players ahead of the lockout, committing to more than $1.9 billion in new contracts — including a one-day record of more than $1.4 billion Wednesday.

Two of the eight members of the union’s executive subcommittee signed big deals: Texas infielder Marcus Semien ($175 million) and Scherzer ($130 million).

“This is actually kind of fun,” Scherzer said. “I’m a fan of the game, and to watch everybody sign right now, to actually see teams competing in this kind of timely fashion, it’s been refreshing because we’ve seen freezes for the past several offseasons.”

No player remains active from the 232-day strike that cut short the 1994 season, led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years and caused the following season to start late.

The average salary dropped from $1.17 million before the strike to $1.11 million but then resumed its seemingly inexorable rise. It peaked at just under $4.1 million in 2017, the first season of the latest CBA, but likely will fall to about $3.7 million when this year’s final figures are calculated.

That money is concentrated heavily at the top of the salary structure. Among approximately 1,955 players who signed major league contracts at any point going into the regular season’s final month, 112 had earned $10 million or more this year as of Aug. 31, of which 40 made at least $20 million, including prorated shares of signing bonuses.

There were 1,397 earning under $1 million, of which 1,271 were at $600,000 or less and 332 under $100,000, a group of younger players who shuttle back and forth to the minors.

A union statement claimed the lockout “was specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good-faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just players, but the game and industry as a whole. … We have been here before, and players have risen to the occassion time and again — guided by a solidarity that has been forged over generations.”

The union has withheld licensing money, as it usually does going into bargaining; cash, U.S. Treasury securities and investments totaled $178.5 million last Dec. 31, according to a financial disclosure form filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Some player agents have speculated that management’s credit lines already may be pressured following income deprivation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the clubs’ finances are more opaque publicly than that of the union, making it difficult to ascertain comparative financial strength to withstand a lengthy work stoppage.

Manfred succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in 2015 following a quarter-century as an MLB labor negotiator. He was unusually critical publicly of the union’s stance.

“They never wavered from collectively the most extreme set of proposals in their history,” he said, “including significant cuts to the revenue-sharing system, a weakening of the competitive balance tax, and shortening the period of time that players play for their teams. All of these changes would make our game less competitive.”

___

Blum reported from New York and Hawkins from Irving, Texas.

___

AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

In this photo released by the Longmont Police Department the Life Choices building in Longmont, Col...
Associated Press

Police investigating fire at Colorado pregnancy center

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) — A weekend fire at a Christian pregnancy center in north-central Colorado is being investigated as a possible arson, police in Longmont said. The fire at Life Choices was reported at 3:17 a.m. Saturday, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and said abortion laws would be decided by […]
20 hours ago
The Very Rev. Kris Stubna, rector of St. Paul Cathedral Parish, preaches on the topic of abortion a...
Associated Press

After Roe’s demise, clergy lead faithful in praise, laments

Praise and lament for the overturning of abortion rights filled sacred spaces this weekend as clergy across the U.S. rearranged worship plans or rewrote sermons to provide their religious context — and competing messages — about the historic moment. Abortion is a visceral issue for deeply divided religious Americans. Some are sad or angry in […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Poisonous bite leads German police to farm with 110 snakes

BERLIN (AP) — Police in Germany said Sunday they discovered more than 110 dangerous snakes on a farm after a woman who lived there sought medical treatment for a poisonous bite. The 35-year-old woman drove to a hospital in Salzgitter, near Hannover, early Sunday and told doctors there that one of her rattlesnakes bit her […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Average US gasoline price drops 4 cents to $5.05 per gallon

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline fell by 4 cents per gallon in the past two weeks to $5.05 for regular grade, it was reported Sunday. It was the first drop in nine weeks and came with a drop in oil prices amid deepening global inflation fears, industry analyst Trilby […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Newspaper: Oklahoma gun deaths rose as firearms access grew

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gun deaths in Oklahoma have increased since a “permitless carry” law allowing people over the age of 21 to carry a gun without a permit or training went into effect in 2019, according to a newspaper’s review of data. The Oklahoman analyzed state medical examiner data and found that Oklahoma has […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Bosnian Serb member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia Milorad Dodik watches military ex...
Associated Press

Bosnian Serb leader prays for Trump’s return, praises Putin

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The leader of Bosnia’s Serbs said Sunday he hoped former U.S. President Donald Trump would return to power and that the Serbs would “wait for appropriate global circumstances” to reach for their goal of seceding from Bosnia, which he called an “unsustainable state.” Milorad Dodik, who was a rare European official […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
MLB owners lock out players, 1st work stoppage since 1995