INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As the lockout in Major League Baseball continues into its third month, the league has canceled the first two series for each of the 30 teams, wiping games off the schedule through March 18.
It’s the first time in 27 years that regular-season games have been canceled, dating back to the 1994-95 MLB strike, which began in August and resulted in the remainder of the season — including the World Series — being canceled.
The current work stoppage — the ninth in MLB history — is the result of a lockout following the expiration of the 2016 collective bargaining agreement between the players’ union and the league. The last lockout was in 1990.
Key areas of concern for the players’ union include the league minimum salary, a universal designated hitter, the format of the draft lottery, the bonus pool for pre-arbitration players, and the luxury tax threshold.
On Feb. 20, the MLB said the last day for both sides to come to an agreement and have the season start on time would be Feb. 28. On that date, the two sides met again for a bargaining session that lasted until March 1, but failed to come to an agreement.
Brandon Podgorski, associate Sport Management professor and director of the Center for Sports Studies at Trine University, says he’s not surprised by the current situation.
“I think, as negotiations started ramping up at the end of February, this kind of seemed like a power play by the owners to cancel the beginning of the season,” Podgorski said. “If you think about April baseball, the games aren’t very well attended and this is a way for the owners to gain a little bit of leverage. And, quite frankly, they’re not going to miss out on a lot of TV money until they start missing maybe two, or three to four weeks into the season. I think it’s a shrewd negotiating tactic.”
Podgorski says he’s never seen players this connected on issues in the collective bargaining talks.
“It’s one thing to be together this early in the season and you’re only missing a few paychecks; it’s quite a different story when we get into two, three, four months into the season,” Podgorski said. “But, the longer this goes, players start to get a little bit more leverage and they really seem to to have dug in their heels because they don’t get paid for the games when they’re canceled.”
The lockout is “very sad and very disappointing,” according to Podgorski, and it’s the fans who really lose in this situation.
“If you look at the last work stoppage, it was a strike from the ’94-’95 season. Attendance dipped and they didn’t make those numbers come back. It took them about 10 years, a little over a decade. I don’t want to see that happen again,” Podgorski said. “It’s extremely competitive out there, especially for younger viewers, and that youth that they want to try to get their attention. Well, if you’re not playing, you’re alienating those fans.”
Podgorski predicts the lockout will last for about a month, but only time will tell. The players’ union and the league are expected to meet again on Sunday.