Back in 1994, another MLB season was underway, and everything seemed great. Players like Montreal Expos pitcher Pedro Martinez and San Diego Padres hitter Tony Gwynn were having impressive seasons, and fans were gearing up for an exciting and competitive postseason battle for a World Series trophy. But on Aug. 12, that vision came to a halt as the MLB season was canceled due to a work stoppage. The entire postseason, including the World Series, was canceled, and fans were frustrated.
Now, imagine if such a devastating occurrence were to happen in 2021. While the World Series has already taken place, a stoppage of an exciting 2021 MLB free agency including stars like Carlos Correa and Nick Castellanos would be just as deadly for the league. Suppose MLB owners could not agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a document that governs the working relationship between teams and players, by midnight on Dec. 1. In that case, a strike will likely occur.
While this potential lockout likely won’t affect the MLB 2022 schedule, it differs from the 1994 example in affecting MLB’s free agency. Money has always been a primary part of baseball, and many issues have stemmed from it. Players, naturally, would like to be paid more, and owners are not giving more money to players than they are currently receiving.
A central problem is players receiving well-paying long-term deals lasting between 7-10 years that can potentially hurt teams in the long run. Owners are looking to focus more on shorter deals that contain less risk for their franchise while still securing big-time players to bolster their chances of winning. However, with players like Mike Trout receiving mind-boggling contracts, and even Correa expected to receive a high-value long-term deal, this becomes unlikely for MLB teams.
Dodgers infielder Corey Seager would be a perfect player to use as an example for someone who would be highly affected by the impending lockout. The 27-year-old is looking to receive a huge payday this offseason after his fruitful time with the Dodgers. The team, who may want to retain Seager, offers him a four-year, $130 million contract. This contract is undervalued for a player seeking a long-term deal with a lot more money involved, and quite unrealistic for a player of his stature.
Another issue starts in Minor League Baseball, where horrid conditions and poor treatment of players have been highly publicized throughout the baseball world. The allocation of money toward these minor league players would be significant for the game and improve the poor conditions that Minor League players face daily. Although the MLB has approved housing for 2021, I unfortunately don’t envision them providing more for minor league players.
I find it hard to believe that players would allow any dip in their salaries to accommodate minor leaguers. Only in rare circumstances, such as when David Price donated his salary to the Dodgers farm system in 2020, has the sports world seen such generosity. The fact that players have performed for several years and earned the leverage to be rewarded handsomely for their talents is what Major League Baseball must recognize.
This issue is certainly big for MLB, and it remains to be seen if baseball executives can come to a deal before Dec. 1. Owners simply have to put aside their pride and respect the players who earn them their money. If owners can’t do that, baseball will be in trouble and fans will not be happy. More importantly, owners may be irritated when even less money flows into their pockets as fans grow frustrated with and disinterested in the game they once adored.