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Major League Baseball lockout imminent: Odds slightly favor 2022 regular season starting on time March 31

Expect MLB owners to lock out the players early Thursday morning.
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There is no more contentious relationship in American professional sports than between the Major League Baseball Players' Association and the owners/commissioner Rob Manfred. The current collective bargaining agreement between the sides expires at mi11:59 ET tonight, and the owners are going to lock out the players. SportsLine offers odds on whether the 2022 regular season starts on time.

Normally, the Hot Stove League wouldn't be raging so early as it has the past week or so with big names such as Max Scherzer (Mets), Corey Seager (Rangers), Marcus Semien (Rangers), reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray (Mariners), Javier Baez (Tigers) and others already having signed contracts. Clearly, those players wanted the security now.

Other players are waiting to see what the new CBA looks like, and big-spending teams like the Yankees and Dodgers also are waiting to see what the new luxury tax penalties might be, etc. The luxury tax system that started with the 2003 season sunsets with the expiration of the labor contract.

There's also the fact that National League teams don't know for sure if they can sign a designated hitter-type, although the consensus is that the universal DH will be part of the new CBA because both owners and players want it.

The owners will lock out the players essentially to motivate the MLBPA to get serious about negotiating. If owners waited until the season started, then the players would have the hammer with the threat of a strike. In a lockout, all transactions will cease – although teams can talk to each other. They just can't finalize anything. No contact of any kind between team and player is allowed until a new agreement is reached.

MLB was interrupted by eight work stoppages from 1972 to 1995, the last a 7½-month strike in 1994-95 that wiped out the World Series for the first time. Agreements were reached before the expiration of past collective bargaining agreements on Oct. 24 in 2006, on Nov. 22 in 2011 and on Nov. 30 in 2016.

Many insiders believe this time around is similar to 1989-90, when the CBA expired Dec. 31. Owners announced a little more than a week later that that a lockout would begin Feb. 15 without an agreement. A deal was reached March 1 and Opening Day was delayed a week until April 9.

"We've been down this path. We locked out in '89-'90," Manfred told the Associated Press recently. "I don't think '94 worked out too great for anybody. I think when you look at other sports, the pattern has become to control the timing of the labor dispute and try to minimize the prospect of actual disruption of the season. That's what it's about. It's avoiding doing damage to the season."

Players are paid their any signing bonus or deferred salary during a lockout but not paid their base salary should the lockout extend into the regular season. That's why many believe the season will start on time even if spring training doesn't.

Grapefruit and Cactus League play is scheduled to open Saturday, Feb. 26, with all teams in action. The regular season is set for March 31 with all 30 teams set to play. The defending World Series champion Braves open in Miami.

Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Will the 2022 MLB regular season start on time (March 31)?

  • Yes -130
  • No Even

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