The Press Box Perspective: Time Ticking Down for MLB Players’ Union

By Andrew Zuhosky

In 2011, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association agreed to a five-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which ran through the 2016 MLB season.

Under the terms of the agreement, this CBA was set to lapse on Thursday.

By the time you read this, the Dec. 1 deadline for MLB and the MLBPA to agree to a new CBA will be here. As of the time I wrote this, we still do not know whether MLB and the Players’ Association have come to an agreement on a new CBA.

Within the past week, things have gotten serious in the negotiation process, and it could mean that the team owners might have to lock the players out if an agreement doesn’t happen today.

If a lockout is staged with no agreement from the MLB and MLBPA, Major League Baseball will be at a standstill from a business point.

A lockout would mean that no trades would be allowed to take place, and there wouldn’t be any free agent signings going on, either.

Ken Rosenthal, MLB Network sportswriter, also mentioned that despite the potential lack of a CBA, free agent signings and trades, the Winter Meetings could still take place next week.

The main issue with the MLB and MLBPA as it relates to a possible lockout, is that some key aspects haven’t been settled yet.

Rosenthal also said that the owners had a resolve on the table. They would agree to eliminate draft-pick compensation in free agency in exchange for the right to have an international draft. The MLBPA declined the offer.

If MLB and the MLBPA let this day pass without an agreement and a lockout is staged, 21 years’ worth of calm between them will be over.

Here’s a brief history lesson in case you don’t remember what happened the last time MLB and the MLBPA went on strike.

In August of 1994, four years after a lockout in 1990, which delayed the start to that year’s season, MLB and the MLBPA could not come to an agreement on a new CBA. On July 28 of that year, both sides agreed to go on strike if no agreement was reached by Aug. 12, 1994.

One month later, then-MLB Commissioner Bud Selig broke the news that the rest of the 1994 MLB season, playoffs and World Series included, would be canceled entirely.

In addition, NBC Sports and ABC Sports, who entered into a joint agreement to air exclusive MLB telecasts under “The Baseball Network” title, had to share the broadcast rights for the 1995 World Series. ABC was to broadcast the 1994 World Series in full with NBC airing the ’95 World Series in its entirety.

By the time the 1994-95 strike was resolved, 948 games had been axed.

“The Baseball Network” agreement between ABC and NBC was terminated, although NBC would split over-the-air rights to the All-Star Game, playoff series and World Series until 2000 with FOX Sports.

If there’s one silver lining about a possible lockout this time around, it won’t be happening in-season like the 1994 strike.

In my opinion, what MLB and the MLBPA should have included in these CBA negotiations is a trimming of the season down to 144 games and a later start to avoid having April games snowed out. I don’t want to have a repeat of last year’s aborted Opening Day in Cleveland again.

If there’s no CBA agreed by today, I don’t think the lockout would be terribly long. MLB and the MLBPA have plenty of time to iron out a deal before they have to worry about missing games. Here’s hoping they get the deal done quickly, though.