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The MLB Lockout: The Most Expensive Poker Game in Sports

Photo by Martin Péchy on

Last updated on February 28, 2022

Baseball– America’s Pastime– has found itself in a bit of a pickle (no pun intended). For the first time in over 25 years, Major League Baseball (MLB) instituted a lockout, effectively bringing a 66 billion dollar business to a screeching halt. When and how this will end depends on the negotiations that will ensue, but the last three months have shown us that neither the MLB nor its player’s association is willing to give in any time soon. Folks, we may be without baseball for a bit longer than we expected. 

For those unaware of what a lockout is, here’s a quick rundown. The MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) agree on a collective bargaining agreement, which is essentially how the league will be run. It’s a plan for how the next couple of seasons will be carried out, and it has it all, from how many players can be on a roster to free agency to so much more.

The MLB and the MLBPA need to negotiate a new deal every time the last one expires or a lockout will occur. The last deal was negotiated in 2016, and it just so happened to expire on December 2, 2021.

So that morning, the owners locked out the players, shutting them out from all salaries, facilities, and benefits. The owners don’t have anything to lose at this point; the last baseball season is over, so there aren’t any games for them to accrue revenue. So this lockout comes at a perfect time for the owners, who don’t have to pay their players and aren’t missing out on much.

So why isn’t there a new collective bargaining agreement? As always, it’s the money. The MLB’s system for salaries rewards star players by allowing teams to spend as much as they want on player contracts. But players aren’t given any negotiation power until their sixth year in the league. This means that young stars are being grossly underpaid, and they have nothing to show for it.

And if players decline by the time they hit six years, they may never see a significant paycheck. Now, keep in mind these players are still being paid millions but compared to the billions upon billions the MLB makes, the players want a larger piece of the pie.

In addition, advanced statistics and analytics have made it even easier for teams to pass on players, deeming them unworthy of big contracts and moving on more quickly. That means more money is lost for the players, causing them to push for change.

So how’s that progress going? In short, not well. The players association and the league have only met a couple of times in the last 2 months, and no agreements have been made regarding the major negotiation points. Other points, like a Designated Hitter in the National League and an expanded playoff system, have been introduced, but they may only be there as bargaining chips. The big issue is the money. And with over $10 billion in annual revenue for the MLB, who wouldn’t want more of it? 

As we move into March, negotiations will only intensify; nobody wants to lose games in the 2022 season. And with the MLB setting a February 28 deadline for a new deal before they start canceling games, the urgency could never be higher. So keep an eye out on the news, and let’s all hope baseball is back sooner rather than later.

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