Major League Baseball Enters First Player Lockout Since 1990: What That Means for the Game

This is the first work stoppage in the league since the 1994-1995 players' strike and the first MLB lockout since 1990

A general view of the 2020 Opening Day logo during the game between the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park
Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty

For the first time in 26 years, Major League Baseball has entered a player lockout.

The lockout began early Thursday morning after the MLB and the MLB Players Association's previous collective bargaining agreement expired after 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday. It is the first work stoppage in the league since the 1994-95 players' strike and the first MLB lockout since 1990.

"Despite the league's best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labor peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired," said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement on Thursday.

"It is not required by law or for any other reason," the association said in its own statement Thursday. "It was the owners' choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure Players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just Players, but the game and industry as a whole."

Meanwhile, the MLB Players Association called the shutdown "a dramatic measure, regardless of the timing."

A general view of the 2020 Opening Day logo during the game between the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park
Mitchell Leff/Getty

Until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, various offseason activities are prohibited such as engaging in transactions and workouts at team facilities. Communications between team officials and players are barred in general, and the MLB Winter Meetings scheduled to begin Dec. 6 in Orlando, Florida, will not go on as planned.

Players' pay may also be impacted by the lockout. Signing bonuses and deferred salary payments will still be doled out over the offseason, but players' base pay would be impacted should the work stoppage impede upon the 2022 regular season, which begins March 31.

Among the current sticking points, according to Manfred's statement, are "significant" changes to the league's revenue-sharing system, "a weakening" of the competitive balance tax, and a shortened period of time where players compete for their teams. "All of these changes would make our game less competitive, not more," he said.

Though "disappointed" by the lockout, Manfred suggested the move is "the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season."

A detail view of the Major League Baseball logo on a baseball
Pouya Dianat/Atlanta Braves/Getty

"We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time," said the commissioner. "This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association's vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It's simply not a viable option."

Manfred added, "From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions."

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But the MLBPA said it's familiar with the league's tactics. "We have been here before, and players have risen to the occasion time and again — guided by a solidarity that has been forged over generations. We will do so again here," the association said.

They added, "We remain determined to return to the field under the terms of a negotiated collective bargaining agreement that is fair to all parties, and provides fans with the best version of the game we all love"

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