MLB locks players out in union impasse

The Atlanta Braves lift the World Series trophy, watched by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred (second right, in dark suit)
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred (second right, in dark suit) presented the World Series trophy to the Atlanta Braves a month ago – but is now at loggerheads with the players’ union

Major League Baseball has entered its first work stoppage in 26 years after it imposed a lockout on its players.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), which had run for four years, expired at midnight on Wednesday evening.

And there is little prospect of MLB and the MLBPA reaching an early solution.

While the lockout is in place, clubs cannot sign, trade or release major league players, or offer new contracts.

The impasse means players are not even permitted to communicate with their teams, although they are permitted to work out on their own, while minor league players and transactions are unaffected.

Even MLB’s official website has switched its content to focusing on baseball’s history, rather than its familiar news and analysis of current players.

There is no immediate threat to the 2022 MLB season, which is scheduled to begin on 31 March after a month of spring training.

However, the two sides – MLB and the MLBPA – were far apart in recent talks, with the most recent meeting lasting only seven minutes, and seem a long way from agreeing a new CBA.

Topics up for negotiation are set to include extending the designated hitter (DH) rule to the National League (where currently there is no DH and pitchers bat), the number of teams to be involved in the post-season, and the time at which players become eligible for salary arbitration and free agency.

Since the 1994-95 players’ strike, which shortened the 1994 MLB season and forced the cancellation of that year’s World Series, the league and the union have agreed five successive CBAs without a work stoppage.

What do the two sides say?

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement in the form of an open letter to fans,external-link expressing his disappointment at the situation.

He wrote: “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.

“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. Regrettably, it appears the Players Association came to the bargaining table with a strategy of confrontation over compromise.”

Meanwhile, the MLBPA released a statement describing the lockout as “a dramatic measure, not required by law or for any other reason.”

The union continued: “It was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals. These tactics are not new.”

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