Veteran reporter Ken Rosenthal has sounded the alarm for the possibility of a MLB work stoppage in a piece today at The Athletic (subscription link). He opens the article with the eyebrow-raising observation that “the threat of the sport’s first work stoppage since 1994-95 is palpable.”
Importantly, Rosenthal does not cite sources for the proposition that a strike or lockout are specifically being contemplated now or in the immediate future. But the fact that such a well-placed reporter characterizes the state of affairs in that manner is noteworthy in and of itself. And the piece does document a few nuggets of information that hint that the possibility is in the back of the minds of some. For instance, per the report, the players “have taken the unusual step of authorizing the union to withhold their entire [licensing fees] checks” to keep a reserve fund in place.
It’s hardly novel at this point to see the concept of a labor war floated. Certainly, the increasingly antagonistic relationship between Major League Baseball (and its member teams) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (along with the players that make up its membership) has long been observed. Market changes have been evident since the current CBA went into effect, with last winter’s laborious free-agent market bringing things into sharp focus.
This time last year, it was already clear that change was afoot. But it was generally emphasized, here and elsewhere, that the next winter’s market — that is, the one we’re in at present — would offer a better test due to the presence of uniquely youthful and accomplished superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (along with some other high-end talents). As it turns out, it’s now clear at the winter-long staring contest is not just a one-year phenomenon. Though some significant contracts have been handed out, it’s obvious that teams now have ample resolve when it comes to negotiating major deals.