With Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire Dec. 1, the league and the MLBPA held their first set of talks on a new deal last week. The two sides still have several months to work out an agreement, but considering how contentious their relationship has been over the past few years, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a work stoppage for the first time since the 1994-95 strike. However, commissioner Rob Manfred is optimistic it won’t come to that.
Speaking at a SporticoLive event this week, Manfred said the owners are “committed to the process” of preventing a stoppage, according to Barry M. Bloom of Sportico. Manfred then noted that he has worked in labor relations for most of his career and added: “The varying nature of labor relations is kind of ups and downs. You’re going to have various times of conflict when you don’t see eye to eye. The trick is getting past those areas of conflict and finding a way to make an agreement and find common ground.”
On the other hand, the union’s executive director, Tony Clark, admitted to Bloom that a work stoppage is “a possibility,” saying MLB could “shut the door and lock us out.”
Although a work stoppage may cause severe damage to the sport, there are several roadblocks that could prevent the league and its players from finding common ground by the time December arrives. Playoff expansion, the universal designated hitter, individual teams’ payrolls, revenue distribution and players’ service time are sure to be some of the main items on the table during negotiations. If the parties can’t settle their differences on those issues and other matters of importance, MLB could experience a shutdown in seven months.
While the league has plenty on its plate with the CBA soon to expire, it’s also trying to navigate through a global pandemic and a divided political climate. On the subject of COVID-19, Manfred said 70 percent of players, on-field staff and support personnel have been fully or partially vaccinated, the Associated Press reports. Once MLB hits the 85 percent threshold, it will loosen its restrictions.
Earlier this month, the Manfred-led league moved this summer’s All-Star Game and amateur draft from Atlanta to Colorado, which many inferred as a rejection of Georgia’s SB 202 voting law. However, Manfred stated that the league made the decision to help its players avoid political controversy.
“We were injected into a very politicized situation. I think we did the right thing,” Manfred said (via the AP). “We thought our players were going to be in an extraordinarily difficult situation given how politically charged it was. And we think that the decision we made will actually be player protective.”
This year’s All-Star and draft festivities will take place from July 11-13.