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MLB owners lock out players and begin the sport’s first work stoppage in 26 years

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Major League Baseball’s collective agreement expired Wednesday night, plunging the sport into a management lockout that will end the labor peace in 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years.

The player and owner had successfully made four consecutive agreements without a break, but they had been heading for a confrontation for more than two years.

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The talks ended when management negotiators left the union’s hotel at 11:59 p.m. EST  -proximately nine hours before the agreement expired. Players said MLB didn’t come up with any new key economic proposals this week.

The union called for a change following the anger over falling median salaries, middle-class players being pushed by teams that focused payroll on the wealthy, and veterans being sacked in favor of lower-paid youth, especially at clubs that run their cadres dismantle to rebuild them.

“As players, we see big problems with it,” said Max Scherzer, pitcher of the New York Mets, of the 2016 agreement. “We see primarily a competition problem and the behavior of the teams due to certain rules that are contained in it, and it therefore adjustments need to be made to highlight the competition. “

There are still eleven weeks until the pitcher and catcher report for spring training on February 16. There are around 70 days left to reach an agreement that allows for a punctual start. The opening day is set for March 31st and has historically required a minimum of three weeks of organized training.

FILE – Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (left) and Major League Baseball Players Association General Manager Tony Clark speak prior to Game 1 of the Baseball World Series between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves on October 26, 2021 in Houston. A (( – Photo / Ron Blum, File) /  – Newsroom)

Management, anxious to maintain the wage cuts seen over the past few decades, rejected the union’s calls for actions that the teams saw as major changes to the economic structure of the sport, including reducing the length of service for free representation and wage negotiations.

Lots of clubs scrambled to add players ahead of a lockout and expected signing freeze, signing up to more than $ 1.9 billion in new contracts – including a daily record of more than $ 1.4 billion on Wednesday.

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“It felt like at least certain groups of free agents had been moving faster in the last few days,” said Ben Cherington, Pittsburgh general manager.

Two of the eight members of the union’s executive subcommittee signed big deals: Marcus Semien of Texas ($ 175 million) and Scherzer ($ 130 million).

“It’s actually fun,” said Scherzer. “I’m a fan of the game and to see everyone sign up to see teams compete in this timely manner is refreshing as we’ve seen freezes over the past several off-seasons.”

Much has changed since the 232-day strike that shortened the 1994 season, resulted in the World Series being canceled for the first time in 90 years, and delayed the 1995 season. That hiring didn’t end until a federal judge – future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor – issued an injunction forcing the owners to restore the labor rules of the expired employment contract.

New York Mets’ first baseman Pete Alonso takes his position between innings of the team’s baseball game against the Chicago Cubs on June 17, 2021 in New York. ( – Photo / Kathy Willens) (( – Photo / Kathy Willens) /  – Newsroom)

The average salary fell to $ 1.11 million from $ 1.17 million before the strike, but then resumed its seemingly unstoppable rise. It peaked at just under $ 4.1 million in 2017, the first season of the newest CBA, but is likely to drop to around $ 3.7 million when this year’s final numbers are calculated.

This money is heavily concentrated at the top of the pay structure. Of  -proximately 1,955 players who signed major league contracts at any point in the final month of the regular season, 112 had made $ 10 million or more that year as of August 31, of which 40 were at least $ 20 million. Dollars earned, including prorated amounts of signing bonuses.

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There were 1,397 who made less than $ 1 million, of whom 1,271 made $ 600,000 or less and 332 made less than $ 100,000, a group of younger players who commute to and fro with the minors.

Union chief Tony Clark, a former all-star first baseman who became executive director after Michael Weiner’s death in 2013, said the players were united and understand the need to stick together to achieve common goals. The sides are still fighting legal disputes over the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic, considering how long the season could have been, and taking their positions before a neutral umpire.

FILE – Seattle Mariners gather as the MLB logo is displayed during a review of an attempted catch by right fielder Mitch Haniger of a ball struck by Ji-Man Choi of Tampa Bay Rays, originally named during the ninth inning of a baseball game Out was called Friday (( – Photo / Ted S. Warren) /  – Newsroom)

The union has withheld royalties as it normally does in negotiations; Cash, Treasuries, and investments totaled $ 178.5 million as of December 31st, according to a financial disclosure form filed with the Department of Labor.

“We have a pretty big war chest behind us that we can distribute to the players,” said Scherzer.

Some players ‘agents have speculated that management credit lines may already be under pressure due to the loss of income caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but clubs’ finances are more opaque to the public than the union’s, making it difficult to pinpoint comparable financial strength to withstand tedious work stagnation.

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Rob Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner after a quarter of a century as MLB labor negotiator in 2015, made it clear last month that management preferred an off-season lockout to an off-season strike.

“We went that route. We locked out ’89 -’90,” he said. “I don’t think ’94 went too well for anyone. I think when you look at other sports the pattern has evolved of controlling the timing of the industrial action and trying to minimize the chances of an actual break in the season It’s about not harming the season. “

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Scott Boras, who negotiated Scherzer’s deal and signed Corey Seager’s $ 325 million contract with Texas, has urged the union to insist on changes to ease the incentive to cut payrolls during the rebuilding.

“Sometimes the rules of the game require that they do things that are not in the best interests of the game,” said Boras do. “

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