Rob Manfred Acknowledges MLB Lockout Is Bad for Sport, 'Optimistic' a Deal Gets Done

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 2, 2021

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred responds to a question Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, during a news conference in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the media Thursday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, after the league officially entered into a lockout at 12:01 a.m. ET.

While Manfred explained the rationale behind a lockout, he acknowledged it isn't ideal for baseball: "It's not a good thing for the sport. ... We understand it's bad for the business."

A lockout gives the owners and players plenty of time to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement before the 2022 season.

Manfred expressed optimism that the two sides will reach common ground: "I don't feel frustrated. I'm disappointed we didn't get to an agreement. I'm optimistic we are going to get a deal."

While the lockout has caused the offseason and free agency to grind to a halt, locking out was a calculated decision on Major League Baseball's part.

Manfred alluded to how the in-season strike in 1994 forced the cancellation of the World Series as a reason that a lockout is occurring: "If you play without an agreement, you're vulnerable to a strike at any point in time."

One of the biggest points of contention in negotiations has been revenue sharing, as the players' union wants less spread among teams and more shared with the players. On Thursday, Manfred said the players' union asked for a $100 million reduction in revenue sharing to the teams.

Manfred took issue with the idea, pointing to a competitive-balance issue for small-market clubs because of the lack of a salary cap. The belief is that lessening revenue sharing could make the gap between the haves and have-nots even wider.

Although he didn't offer specifics, Manfred vouched for the owners' CBA proposal: "We made a proposal yesterday; if it had been accepted, it would have provided a clear path toward an agreement."

This marks the first MLB lockout since 1990 and the first work stoppage of any kind since the 1994-95 strike, which cost the league 948 games, including the 1994 playoffs and World Series. 

A lockout has never resulted in lost games in the history of MLB, while strikes in 1972, 1981 and 1994 did lead to the cancellation of games.

The timing of the lockout takes a lot of steam out of the excitement that had been generated by the free-agent frenzy, which saw the likes of Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray land huge contracts.

Free agency will resume when a new CBA agreement is reached, and plenty of big names will still be available, including Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Kris Bryant and Clayton Kershaw.