Major League Baseball’s lockout is entering its fourth month, and the first two regular-season series of the 2022 schedule have already been lost. Most fans have grown weary of the back-and-forth, the finger-pointing and name-calling, instead merely wanting to know when they can expect MLB to again be a part of their daily routines. The unfortunate reality is that there’s no firm answer to that question, as we can’t know firmly when an agreement will be reached — or even when talks will resume.
As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic outlines, local television contracts don’t call for rebates from teams until roughly 25 games are lost. Jeff Passan of ESPN adds some specifics, writing that avoiding rebates requires broadcasting between 138 and 150 games (with slight team-to-team variation). That plays into the owners’ ability to hold out, as does the general fact that their wealth considerably outpaces that of the players. In cold-weather states, April is a relatively poorly attended month anyhow — at least after the early rush of the opening series.
On the players’ side of the equation, MLBPA executive subcommittee member Andrew Miller told reporters last night that union solidarity is stronger than he’s ever seen (link via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
“We’re prepared,” said Miller. “We’ve seen this coming in a sense. It’s unfortunate. This isn’t new to us. This is not shocking. Our communication, our willingness to see each other’s point of views and find solutions and fight for what’s right is not like I’ve seen before. I can tell you that.”
Both Miller and fellow subcommittee member Max Scherzer broadcast strength and a desire to improve conditions for future generations. Scherzer candidly said he was more than willing to “sacrifice part of [his] career,” noting that he would not be in position to have signed the contract he did without previous generations of players sacrificing portions of their career for him. At the very least, the MLBPA is putting up a strong front.
It’s easier for players like Scherzer, who have amassed hundreds of millions in career earnings, to sit out than it is for players with little to no MLB experience. However, as noted here at MLBTR this week, the union has been preparing for this worst-case scenario for some time, spinning off their licensing revenues into a separate company that allows them to take equity stakes in third parties.
The MLBPA offered $5,000 stipends to members for both February and March and, per Rosenthal and colleague Evan Drellich, will begin offering $15,000 monthly stipends on April 1. Most veterans won’t be applying for those checks, but for those playing closer to the league minimum — or, particularly, those expected to be collecting minor league salaries — it’s a reasonably notable sum. The union has the funds to last the entire season paying out those stipends, although the obvious hope is that a resolution will arrive far sooner.
Everything now depends on how quickly the two parties return to the table and whether one or both will blink in the face of historic levels of tension and public pressure. Clark’s suggestion that ownership cares more about “breaking the union” than about getting players back on the field speaks volumes about the rift that remains, and now on top of everything else, they’ll quarrel over potentially prorated salaries and service time.