The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association is set to expire at midnight on December 1st, 2021. That means we just crossed the one-month-until-doom demarcation line, and boy does it feel murky.
On the surface, there do not appear to be the kind of external factors that make this potential lockout filled with nearly the animosity from the one that sapped the 1994 World Series and screwed the Cincinnati Reds out of their most recent chance at any sort of glory. The stock market just hit a record high (again) and is roughly 6x more robust than it was just 13 years ago during the heart of the financial crisis, and while day to day life has yet to get back to complete normal in year two of the pandemic, the wealthy folks that own baseball teams have their money tied up in investments that just keep increasing in value exponentially.
They’ve got money. It’s just a matter of them figuring out how much to spend, and where, something that was a much larger issue last time around.
Of course, as Biggie and Mase told us long ago, mo money, mo problems. Maybe this is a bigger deal than the credence to which we’re giving it.
How it all will shake out and impact the regular course of winter events remains to be seen, of course. Options and opt-outs have deadlines long before the end of the CBA, so we’ll see concrete decisions on/from Wade Miley, Tucker Barnhart, Justin Wilson, and Nick Castellanos in the next week, even though both they (and the teams) don’t know exactly what waters they’ll be treading. We don’t know if there will be Winter Meetings the way Winter Meetings usually go, though I guess we didn’t have those in a traditional way last year, either.
Truth is, I just don’t know.
There will likely be a Designated Hitter in both leagues. They may expand the de facto ‘salary cap’ that is the luxury tax into something more concrete, much to the detriment of open-market economics. They may explore more bogus ways to ‘shorten’ games in the name of ‘pace of play’ while adding-in three extra TV commercials for every half-inning, only to wonder mid-year next year why games haven’t shortened at all.
All we know is that the clock is very much ticking, and hopefully, mercifully, these two sides will get along better this time around than they did in their attempts to get the shortened 2020 season up and running. Remember what that felt like eighteen eons ago?