Everything you need to know about the MLB lockout (aside from the fact it’s over)

By: Abby Altman

Image taken from: theathletic.com

What is a lockout?

There are basically 2 kinds of labor stoppages. A lockout and a strike. A strike is a stoppage initiated by the Union side; in this case, the player’s union. A strike would revolve around the player’s union refusing to work.

A lockout is when the stoppage is initiated by the management; in this case, the team owners. Basically, the MLB owners were refusing to allow work to be done, or games to be played. 

In a baseball sense, a lockout means that games and practices can’t be held, trades can’t be made, and free agency is put on hold. 

The lockout already put a halt to spring training, and regular season games have been canceled through April 7th by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. This is the first time the league has lost games due to a work stoppage since the 1994-95 players’ strike.

The MLB Players Association (MLBPA) had its main focus set on getting more money for younger players. They were asking to increase the minimum wage pool, and install a pre-arbitration bonus pool. They were also attempting to curb anti-competitive strategies. 

On the other side of the lockout, the league and team owners were looking to expand the postseason, to either 12 or 14 teams. The 2 sides remained in disagreement over tax balance thresholds, the increase in minimum salary, and the size of the pre-arbitration bonus pool. 

Early in negotiations, 3 major changes were made to the league. 

The first change, and perhaps the smallest of the 3, is an increase in base size. The league has agreed to change the base sizes from 15 square inches to 18 square inches. The increase in size will likely reduce injuries, as the larger the base is, the more room runners have to slide around the fielder, avoiding more collisions. The MLB is also hoping this will lead to an increase in stolen bases. 

The 2nd confirmed change is the installation of a pitch clock. One thing fans and non fans can agree on is that baseball is not a quick moving game. The addition of a pitch clock is an attempt to speed up the game, estimating it can bring the game from an average of 3 hours, all the way down to 2:40. MLB’s plan includes a 14 second timer between pitches with empty bases, and a 19 second timer with runners on. 

By far the most significant and most protested change is the banning of shifts. The MLBPA and the MLB have agreed to ban defensive shifts. Shifts are one of the most analytical parts of the game, making it possible for a hard hit ball between first and second base to result in a routine ground out. 

Left handed batters are by far the most shifted on batters, with big names such as José Ramírez, Joey Gallo, and Max Kepler facing the shift over 90% of their at bats. While banning the shift will allow for more hits on offense, it is a large part of the defensive game, and will change the way defense is played for many. 

Edit** following the writing of this article, the 2 sides reached an agreement, and baseball is scheduled to resume on April 7th. 

The MLBPA and the MLB have agreed on several more changes to the game of baseball. This includes a 12 team expanded postseason and a universal designated hitter. This means that pitchers will no longer bat in the National League, and all 30 teams will hold a designated hitter position in their lineup.

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