You remember when we were kids and ‘spring break’ would technically mean having a Monday through Friday window off from school, but we all knew it really started the moment Friday afternoon rolled around?
It’s that Friday afternoon in the Major League Baseball realm at the moment. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement under which MLB and the Players Association has operated for years is set to expire tonight at 11:59 PM ET, and there is no subsequent agreement in place.
There will be a lockout. There will be a transaction freeze. There will be a wave of injured players doing rehab at local rec centers seeing as they’re locked out from team facilities. There will be free agents in limbo at varying ends of the spectrum, some of whom may well sell insurance or manage an REI until this whole thing sorts itself out, whenever that may be.
There is reason to be optimistic that some agreement will be reached before baseball says hold my beer and does something incredibly stupid to spite itself. Last week saw spending in free agency reach an absolute frenzy, showing that there is still ample money within the game even if certain owners refuse to acknowledge or spend any of it. Not only was there great gobs of money moving, it was being dedicated over long-term contracts, a further indication that the game isn’t just healthy now but is also expected to continue to be that way going forward.
There are still major, major issues to sort through, however. While the money flowed like wine last week, it all came to the top-tier free agents while many minor leaguers still languish making less than minimum wage. The free agency and arbitration rules have long been broken and exploited, and that’s something the MLBPA wants to rectify as teams continue to move towards younger, cheaper players in their current model. The idea of teams tanking is still particularly problematic, too, as a third of the team having zero interest in spending money to win games each year depletes the pool of lucrative jobs in the gabrillion dollar industry.
Baseball as we have come to know it will change this winter. Some changes will be subtle, some will be more administrative. Some will be ones we’ve had snippets of before, like the inevitability of a DH in the National League. How teams alter their business models and align their payrolls to their resources in the wake of the changes will be a sight to see, and you wonder if the teams being proactive this last week are the ones that are anticipating the changes and reacting earlier rather than (too) later.
Regardless, today will be the final day with baseball as we have known it. There will be labor strife, which we’ll cover. There will be talking out of both sides of mouths, which we’ll lampoon. There will be suspense, drama, more drama, and comedy, and we’ll cover those, too. There’s even a chance this sport ends up better off at the end than it is this very day, though with trajillions of dollars at stake, it’s more likely than not it all just ends up greedy.
Go Reds, at least. Last time this all went kablooey, they had the best team in baseball. Causation does not equal correlation, and whatnot. Go Reds.