For the first time in 26 years, Major League Baseball is in a work stoppage.
With ownership and the MLB Players Association unable to get anywhere close to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, MLB locked out players when the clock struck midnight ET to begin Thursday.
Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a statement posted on MLB.com: “This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark responded in a statement, “This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the Players’ resolve 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 advances the rights and benefits of our membership.”
The lockout ends a brief but frenzied free agent signing surge in recent days that saw players land deals worth at least $1.4 billion collectively.
The last baseball work stoppage was a strike that began on Aug. 12, 1994, caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and didn’t end until April 2, 1995.
Since then, the sides hammered out five collective bargaining agreements without any shutdowns.
Management last locked out the players in 1990.
Among the sticking points for the current negotiations reportedly is the players’ desire for free agency after five major league seasons for players 29 1/2 years old or older. The longstanding policy has been for players to need six years of service time to reach free agency.
The players also want to reach arbitration eligibility sooner than the current three-year standard. Another push from the union is to increase the salary threshold at which teams must pay a luxury tax.
According to USA Today Sports and ESPN, the owners were willing to bump the luxury-tax mark from $210 million to $214 million and eventually $220 million as part of a five-year deal, while the MLBPA was asking for it to rise to $245 million.