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MLB Owners Lock Out Players in First Stoppage Since 1995

Agreement expired at midnight Wednesday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 2, 2021 4:24 AM CST
MLB Owners Lock Out Players in First Stoppage Since 1995
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, left, and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark speak before Game 1 in baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves, Oct. 26, 2021.   (AP Photo/Ron Blum, File)

(Newser) – Major League Baseball plunged into its first work stoppage in a quarter-century when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night and owners immediately locked out players in a move that threatens spring training and opening day. The strategy, management’s equivalent of a strike under federal labor law, ended the sport’s labor peace after 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years, the AP reports. Teams decided to force the long-anticipated confrontation during an offseason rather than risk players walking out during the summer, as they did in 1994. Players and owners had successfully reached four consecutive agreements without a work stoppage, but they have been accelerating toward a clash for more than two years.

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"We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. “We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time." Talks that started last spring ended Wednesday after a brief session of mere minutes with the sides far apart on the dozens of key economic issues. Management’s negotiators left the union’s hotel about nine hours before the deal lapsed at 11:59pm. MLB’s 30 controlling owners held a brief digital meeting to reaffirm their lockout decision and MLB delivered the announcement of its fourth-ever lockout in an emailed letter to the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the players’ resolve to reach a fair contract," union head Tony Clark said in a statement. The union demanded change following anger over a declining average salary, middle-class players forced out by teams concentrating payroll on the wealthy, and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid youth. Eleven weeks remain until pitchers and catchers are to report for spring training on Feb. 16, leaving about 70 days to reach a deal allowing for an on-time start. Opening day is set for March 31, and a minimum of three weeks of organized workouts have been required in the past. (A spending record was broken as clubs scrambled to add players before the lockout.)

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