What Does A Baseball Lockout Really Mean?

In December 2021, as Yahoo Sports reports, Major League Baseball instituted what is known as a "lockout," a move that effectively stops its players from showing up for work once the 2022 season begins. The move comes as the current contract between the players and the owners, known as the Collective Bargaining Agreement, or CBA, has expired, and the two sides appear to be unable to come to an agreement until further notice. With a few months before the season is set to begin, the move marks the first major work stoppage in MLB since the 1994-1995 strike, a devastating event that threatened the very future of the sport at the time.

While a strike and a lockout are both options used in labor negotiations, they are not the same thing, and indeed, they are invoked by different sides for different reasons. Further, when it comes to professional sports, the lockout is a powerful tool that management can use in order to control the narrative in a way, making sure that the most harmful effects of the work stoppage don't affect actual games.

A lockout is not a strike

While a strike and a lockout are both options used when labor and management are at the negotiating table, they are different things and invoked for different reasons, according to CBS News. Put simply, a strike is activated by the labor side, while a lockout is activated by the management side. In essence, all MLB-related work comes to an end until further notice — and here, "further notice" means "when a new contract is signed." There is no free agency, no arbitration, players aren't even allowed to enter their locker rooms.

By instituting a lockout in the off-season, this gives MLB the opportunity to try to hash out a new contract before the season begins and, thus, before any games are affected. In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred clearly said that invoking a lockout was, at least in part, intended to see to it that there is a 2022 season and that it isn't shortened. "Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time," he said, via Yahoo Sports.

Will there be a 2022 MLB Season?

With a lockout in place and several months to go before spring training, a work stoppage looms over Major League Baseball, and fans are wondering if a repeat of the 1994-1995 situation is on the horizon. Unfortunately, per CBS News, as of now there is no knowing how long the lockout will last and, more specifically, if the two sides will work things out before the season is scheduled to begin. CBS News' Dayn Perry is cautiously optimistic. "To the extent that lockout history is any guide, it would be surprising if the lockout of 2021 lasted long enough to alter the 2022 regular season schedule," the writer speculated.

Perry also points out that the two sides mainly don't see eye-to-eye over money. Specifically, average MLB players' salaries are shrinking in comparison to the overall increasing generation in revenue by the league. Further, the players' union is keen to see a new contract address how younger, upcoming players are brought into the league, and some changes in how the draft is arranged with respect to where the teams finish in the standings, per ESPN.