To our fans:
I would first like to thank you for your continued support of the great game of baseball. This past season we were reminded of how the national pastime can bring us together and restore our hope despite the difficult challenges of a global pandemic. As we began to emerge from one of the darkest periods in our history, our ball parks were filled with fans; the toys were filled with excitement; and millions of families felt the joy of watching baseball together.
That’s why I’m so disappointed with the situation our game is in today. Despite the league’s best efforts to reach an agreement with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26-year history of peace of mind and reach an agreement with MLBPA before the current CBA expired. Therefore, we have been forced to start a lockout of Major League players, valid at 12:01 ET on December 2.
I want to explain to you how we got here and why we need to take this action today. Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will start the negotiations and get us to an agreement that makes the season start on time. This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten most teams’ ability to be competitive. It is simply not a viable option. From the beginning, MLBPA has been reluctant to move from its starting position, compromise or collaborate on solutions.
When we started negotiating a new agreement, the Players’ Association already had a contract that they would not trade for anyone else in sports. Baseball players have no salary cap and are not subject to a maximum length or dollar amount on contracts. In fact, only MLBs have guaranteed contracts that last for 10 or more years, and over $ 300 million. We have not suggested anything that could change these fundamentals. Although we have heard repeatedly that free agency is “destroyed” – in November, $ 1.7 billion was committed to free agents, breaking the previous record by almost 4x. By the end of the offseason, the clubs will have committed more money to players than in any offseason in MLB’s history.
We worked hard to find compromises while making the system even better for players, by addressing concerns raised by the Players Association. We offered to establish a minimum wage list for all clubs to meet for the first time in baseball history; to allow the majority of players to reach free agency earlier through an age-based system that will eliminate all allegations of service manipulation; and to increase compensation for all young players, including increases in the minimum wage. When the negotiations lacked momentum, we tried to create some by offering to accept the universal Designated Hitter, to create a new draft system using a lottery similar to other leagues, and to increase the limit of competition balance tax that only affects a small number of teams.
We have had challenges before in making employment agreements and have overcome these challenges every single time during my period. Unfortunately, it seems that the Players Association came to the negotiating table with a strategy for confrontation over compromise. They never collectively evaded the most extreme set of proposals in their history, including significant cuts in the revenue-sharing system, a weakening of the competition balance tax and a shortening of the time players play for their teams. All of these changes will make our game less competitive, not more so.
To be clear: this difficult but important step does not necessarily mean that games will be canceled. In fact, we are taking this step now because it is speeding up the need for a deal with as much runway as possible to avoid damaging the 2022 season. Delaying this process further would only further jeopardize spring training, the opening day and the rest of the season – and we can not allow an expired agreement to cause another season strike and a lost World Series, as we experienced in 1994. We owe you all , our fans, better than that.
Today is a difficult day for baseball, but as I have said all year, there is a way to a fair deal and we will find it. I have no doubt that the league and the players share a basic understanding of this game and a commitment to the fans. I am still optimistic that both sides will take the opportunity to work together to grow, protect and strengthen the game we love. MLB is ready to work around the clock to achieve that goal. I encourage the Players’ Association to join us at the table.