MLB is Still on Strike, is the 2022 Season at Stake?

The MLB strike began 30 days after the Atlanta Braves' 2021 World Series victory.

Aerial view of a baseball stadium

After the expiration of their most recent collective agreement and without a new agreement, the owners were forced to order the closure of MLB activities, putting the start of the next 2022 season at risk. Photo: Pexels

Onofre Zambrano

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Leer en español: MLB sigue en huelga ¿habrá o no habrá temporada en el 2022?

Since the beginning of December, Major League Baseball has been on its first strike in 27 years after the expiration of its most recent collective pact and there is no sight of a new agreement. This forced the owners to order the closure of activities, putting the start of the next 2022 season at risk.

We have to go back to 1994, the year in which the season was not played, to find a similar situation and since then, almost 10,000 days have passed. Thus, Major League Baseball (MLB) is in a kind of owner strike under federal labor law, a month after the end of the 2021 season that ended with the Atlanta Braves title.

The 2020 campaign has already undergone drastic changes in the traditional calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic, which generated a schedule of just 60 games in many empty stadiums. Even under these conditions they were able to carry out the season even though they were already in confrontations.

What is the origin of the problem?

It is an impasse that arises from several aspects, mainly due to a new salary cap, and other conditions such as reduction of years to be a free agent, minimum salary for players who rise from the minor leagues and the luxury tax, as well as the expansion of the postseason in terms of the number of qualifiers, since there are 8, 10 and even 16 teams. There is also talks of the designated hitter in the National League, as well as the Pan-American rule, a regulation that establishes that from the extrainning the offensive team starts the inning with a man at second base.

For the Venezuelan lawyer Arturo Marcano, a specialist in labor issues at MLB, the disagreement puts the flag of the baseball industry in check in recent years, which is none other than the competitive balance, that is, making the differences between rookie players and stars.

“They are looking for a better salary and in general better conditions, especially for the player who comes from the minors, the 24-year-old on average, who is exposed to the worst basic salary in the sport in the United States, compared to other leagues such as the NBA, the NFL and even the NHL itself, "added the consultant, not without first assuring that Commissioner Rob Manfred's position in this matter is very" childish, "in an interview he gave to the YouTube channel El Extrabase.

The difference with 1994 is that this time the teams decided to force the expected confrontation during the winter break rather than risk the players standing up in the summer. The two parties had already closed four consecutive agreements without the need for strikes, but it was irremediable to get to this point.

The managers are determined to protect the current salary restrictions and for this reason they rejected the union's requests, described as alterations to the economic structure of sport. Several teams rushed to sign players in the days leading up to the lockout, committing more than $ 1.9 billion in new contracts.

According to the MLB website, the executive director of the Players Association, Tony Clark, said: “This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the desire of the Players to reach a fair contract. We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and promotes the rights and benefits of our members."

MLB also offered a 14-team postseason format that would have raised the Competitive Balance Tax threshold from $ 210 million to $ 214 million, eventually reaching as high as $ 220 million.

Also read: What was the "Negro League"? The forgotten league of baseball

Will there be a season in 2022?

There is just a month and a half left for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training on February 16, leaving just 45 days to reach an agreement in time for the league to start on schedule. Opening day is scheduled for March 31, but teams usually participate in a 21-day preseason.

Rumor has it that the next few weeks are crucial to finding a solution to the strike. However, this period would approach the start of the 2022 season, so if the lawsuit is prolonged, it could be cut or even permanently suspended.