MLB lockdown stages March showdown in union talks

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New York (AFP) – Major League Baseball’s first dispute with players since a strike shattered the 1994 World Series could go on long enough to jeopardize the start of the 2022 season.

On the day that team owners locked players out after the collective agreement expired, no discussions were scheduled and things were tough between the two sides, although both said they were could resume negotiations at any time.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced the lockdown shortly after midnight on Thursday, calling it “the best strategy to protect the 2022 season.”

“The lockout is part of the process designed to bring the parties to an agreement,” Manfred said.

But players were clearly upset that removed the names and pictures of all current players from its news content section and replaced player pictures on roster pages with blank silhouettes.

Many players responded by changing their social media avatars to silhouettes adding the caption “#NewProfilePic”.

Manfred, speaking to reporters on Thursday in suburban Dallas, where talks broke down Wednesday with no progress, said the purpose of the lockdown was to bring a sense of urgency to the negotiations.

“People sometimes need pressure to come to an agreement,” he said. “Frankly, we haven’t felt that sense of pressure from the other side during this week, and the only tool available to you under the law (National Labor Relations) is to exert economic leverage. . “

The lockout ends free agent transactions, prevents communication between teams and players who are in the union, and prevents players from using team facilities.

“Since the MLB chose to lock us up, I have not been able to work with our amazing team of physiotherapists who have led my post-operative care / progression,” New York Yankees pitcher Jameson Paillon said on Twitter. .

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark called the lockdown “drastic and unnecessary.”

He also said the “Fan Letter” published by Manfred to announce the lockdown contained “false statements”.

“It would have been beneficial for the process to have spent as much time negotiating in the room as it seemed to have spent on the letter,” said Clark.

Even with the closure of off-season operations, it’s only at the end of February, when the preseason games are expected to be played, that both sides will start to feel a major financial pinch.

“Not a good thing”

The $ 10 billion industry will take a bigger hit if no deal is reached before regular season games begin on March 31.

“I hope and expect the parties to come back to the table and come to an agreement,” Manfred said.

“Speculating on inaccurate timelines at this point is unproductive, so we’re not going to do it.”

Fans and spectators, whose ticket and souvenir purchases fund clubs and the payroll, have rejected MLB after a lobby fight left the 1994 season unfinished. Attendance fell in 1995, as did television audiences. Some people bought tickets just to boo both teams.

Players and team owners know they risk alienating fans again just one season after spectators have been greeted at stadiums under strict Covid-19 protocols.

“It’s not a good thing for the sport,” admitted Manfred.

However, he insisted that the changes players want, such as faster free agency eligibility and reduced revenue sharing between teams, are “bad for the sport, bad for the fans and bad for the fans. competitive balance “.

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