As if Major League Baseball was not facing enough financial difficulties, the current baseball collective bargaining agreement will expire after the 2021 season. While owners lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2020, the 2021 season has its own uncertainties. Even with the vaccines hitting the American market today, there is still no way of knowing if or how many fans may be allowed to attend games in 2021. Uncertainty reigns supreme in America’s Pastime.
Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement Recent History
The most recent baseball collective bargaining agreement was effective on December 1st, 2016, and covered the seasons from 2017 through 2021. The current agreement will expire on December 1st, 2021. Prior to that, most of the CBAs tended to be for periods of between three and five seasons, so the current one is on the long side.
The issues back in 2016, included such things as an international draft, compensation for free agents, luxury tax, roster size, and scheduling. There was talk of a lockout by the owners over the international draft. They finally decided to scrap the idea, and the 2016 baseball collective bargaining agreement was ratified on December 14th, 2016.
Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement Next Phase
That was then, and this is now. While there has been relative harmony between the owners and the players, the pandemic put that to the test. Negotiations were acrimonious, to say the least. In fact, the two sides never did come to an agreement on how to play the season. On June 23rd, Commissioner Rob Manfred, with the support of the owners, imposed a 60 game schedule.
The unilateral imposition of a season did not sit well with the players, as one can imagine, despite this, they did play the season out, to their credit. Agreeing to play was by means an indication that they will roll over in the upcoming negotiations. On the other hand, the players will need to meet the owners somewhere in the middle. Both sides must be willing to put their differences aside for the good of the sport.
Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement Issues
Looking ahead, what are some of the issues MLB may be facing in the next agreement? Well, an article in USA Today from 2019 carries strong words from the players. This was before the crisis of 2020, so one would hope that the players understand that. Then again, the owners must be willing to meet the players in the middle, as well. It will not be easy, as this article from CBS Indicates, let’s look at the players’ biggest concerns.
- Increased share of the revenue. This has been a concern for many years, as the owners have held a tight rein over the players. How can this be accomplished? The easiest way to make this happen would be to increase the minimum salary or shorten the threshold for free agency and arbitration.
- Luxury Tax. This has served as a soft salary cap in baseball, as it penalizes owners for carrying a payroll above a designated threshold. Obviously, this has the effect of keeping a lid on players’ salaries, so it is almost sure to be a sticking point.
- Service Time. This has been an issue that has received a lot of information due mainly to one player: Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs. Famously, after a torrid 2014 spring training performance, Bryant was sent to Triple-A for just enough days to miss out on a whole year of service time. The Cubs retained an extra year of control through their chicanery. Bryant filed a grievance but was unsuccessful.
Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement Uncertainty
It is impossible to predict what will happen with the next baseball collective bargaining agreement. There are too many variables in play, with the financial uncertainty overriding everything else. After taking huge losses in 2020, owners are not likely to willingly give away the farm. The players, conversely, are not going to “go gentle into that quiet night.” The odds for gridlock seem to be high.
Baseball Collective Baseball Agreement Final Word
What are fans to do with this? Baseball fans endured a rough time in 2020, to say the least. While fans of other sports also had to make concessions to the virus, this is no consolation to baseball fans. Do the owners and players owe the fans any consideration? After all, without fans, the game could not survive, however, the fans have been overlooked in previous labor discussions. This time, though, MLB and the players would be wise to consider their fans. Baseball cannot survive another work stoppage, so it is imperative that the two sides agree on a new baseball collective bargaining agreement before they reach that point. Fans will be watching.
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