what does Lockout mean in baseball

What is a Lockout in Baseball? Read This First!

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If you are a die hard baseball fan, you were probably nervous that you were going to miss a lot of Major League Baseball this spring. That is because the MLB experienced a lockout during spring training which pushed the start of the season back several weeks.

From December 2nd through March 10th, MLB teams were not allowed to hold any team activities causing MLB fans and players to worry about the likelihood of a 2022 season.

A lockout in baseball is a shutdown of the league by the owners of the teams. It usually happens when the owners and the players union cannot come to terms on a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

This can happen in any of the professional sports leagues, but it has happened most recently in baseball. In this article, we will look at what causes a lockout and the consequences that follow.

What is a Collective Bargaining Agreement?

Anyone who kept close tabs on the 2022 lockout of Major League Baseball probably understands what a Collective Bargaining Agreement is. But anyone who did not probably wondered why the league was shut down.

A Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a written contract between an employer and the union that represents the employees. It states the conditions under which both agree to work.

When the current CBA expires, the union and the employer must renegotiate the terms. In cases where lockouts happen in sports leagues, the owners of the teams do not agree to the terms of which the players state in the contract. Until they agree, work cannot resume.

Usually, there are a couple major issues that hold up a contract agreement. In the most recent MLB lockout, there were several different issues on which the owners and players’ union could not agree.

Some of these issues included minimum salary, arbitration, free agency, playoff format, rule changes, universal DH, a draft lottery, and more.

In order to resume play, both the players and owners had to make some concessions in the agreement. However, since the owners were the ones who called for the lockout, they had the leverage, so it is likely that they got the better end of the deal.

What is the Difference Between a Lockout and a Strike?

If you have kept up with baseball long enough, you have experienced both an MLB lockout and an MLB strike. What you probably didn’t realize is there is a big difference between the two.

A lockout is initiated by the employers (the owners) where a strike is initiated by the employees (the players). Both are results of failure to reach a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In 1994, right in the middle of the season, the MLB players union initiated a strike that is maybe the most devastating work stoppage in the history of sports. For the first time in MLB history, the playoffs were canceled.

The strike carried into the 1995 season which was shortened by 18 games. During this time, the MLB owners tried to institute a salary cap which would not allow teams to spend above a certain figure on their players’ salaries.

The MLB is one of the few professional leagues that does not have a salary cap; therefore, there is no limit to how much money each player can make. Implementing a salary cap would have put more money in the pocket of the owners and less in the players’ pockets.

The players’ union called for a strike for the same reason the owners called for a lockout this past season: to gain leverage in the deal. It worked because the MLB still does not have a salary cap.

The Montreal Expos , now the Washington Nationals, were viewed as the frontrunners to win the World Series that year. It would have been their only World Series win in franchise history, and they never had another season like they did in 1994.

How Long Can a Lockout Last?

The hardest part about being a sports fan during a lockout is that there sometimes seems to be no end in sight.

A lockout can last as long as the owners refuse to come to an agreement on the CBA. The 2022 lockout was the longest lockout in league history lasting 99 days.

The longest work stoppage in league history is the 1994-95 player strike which lasted from August 12, 1994 to March 21, 1995 for a total of 221 days.

During a lockout, teams are not allowed to play, practice, sign free agents, make trades, or host any form of team activity on team grounds.

The 99 day lockout this past season really affected players who were injured as they were not allowed to be treated by team personnel at the team facility.

While it may seem convenient for the 2022 lockout to happen during the offseason, it greatly affected the free agency period. Several free agents were not able to sign with a team for several months during this time frame.

What Happens After a Lockout is Over?

When the 2022 lockout ended, fans and players rejoiced, but there were still plenty of questions looming about when and how to make-up for the lost time.

When a lockout is over, all team activities can resume, mostly as normal. While ending a lockout is a great moment for players and fans, the league often faces some unintended consequences of the lockout.

For example, the 2022 lockout occurred during a time period when several offseason events were supposed to take place: the Rule 5 draft, free agent signings, arbitration, and more. When this happens, the league must prepare for alternative dates for these things to happen.

Also, spring training was affected. Pitchers and catchers normally report in early to mid February, so with the lockout ending in early March, some teams missed nearly four weeks of spring training.

There was talk that the late start to spring training would affect Opening Day. However, the league was able to salvage the March 31st date, and all teams opened up when they were scheduled to do so.

Essentially, what happens after a lockout depends on the timing of it. This past season, Major League Baseball had to make up a lot of ground because of both the length and timing of the lockout.

In previous seasons, where lockouts have been much shorter, the aftermath was not as debilitating.

Can Lockouts Occur in Other Professional Sports?

Don’t worry, baseball fans, fans of other sports have had to deal with their fair share of work stoppages. 2011 and 2012, in particular, were not good years for sports fans.

Lockouts can happen in any professional setting where employees are represented by a union; therefore, lockouts can and have happened in other professional sports leagues.

In 2011, the NFL owners initiated a lockout that lasted from March 12th to July 25th (136 days), just in time for training camp to start. A few of the biggest issues in this lockout were the salary cap, benefits for retired players, and player safety.

The NBA also experienced a lockout in 2011 that lasted 161 days. While the NFL lockout took place during the off season, the NBA lockout affected the regular season by shortening from 82 games to 66.

In 2012, the NFL and the NFL Referee Association could not come to terms on a CBA, so the officials were locked out. The term “replacement refs” became world famous that year as officials from high school, college, and other professional leagues officiated games instead.

Related Questions

Who is in Charge of the Players’ Union?

The Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) consists of former players, current players, and lawyers. Former first baseman Tony Clark is the Executive Director. Former player Dave Winfield serves as a Special Adviser to the Executive Director.

Current players Francisco Lindor and Marcus Semien are Association Reps while Zack Britton, James Paxton, Jason Castro, and Gerrit Cole are Pension Reps.

Can the Players’ Association Negotiate Players’ Salaries?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. A player’s agent will negotiate his individual salary, but the Players’ Association can negotiate things like minimum salary and salary caps. In an indirect way, the MLBPA can affect a player’s salary.

Do Players Get Paid During a Lockout?

Players are not paid their base salary during a lockout because they are not participating in team activities. However, they can be paid things like signing bonuses and deferred compensation that are not to be paid based on service time.

Do Players Get Paid During a Strike?

Similar to a lockout, players do not get paid their base salary during a strike, but signing bonuses and deferred payments are still fair game.