By Jared Diamond
Major League Baseball team owners and the players’ union ended talks Wednesday without striking a new collective bargaining agreement, setting the stage for the sport’s first work stoppage since the strike that resulted in the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
The current deal is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. ET, at which point management could initiate a lockout. Such an action would freeze all offseason transactions and raise questions about whether the dispute will disrupt the start of spring training in February or even opening day on March 31.
A lockout is the outcome that has long seemed inevitable, with unrest between the clubs and players building for years. Players are seeking significant changes to a system they view as broken in the wake of the previous CBA, which seems to have favored the owners after taking effect ahead of the 2017 season. The average player salary declined over that span.
A large point of contention is the competitive landscape, particularly the rise of “tanking”–a radical rebuilding strategy in which teams intentionally make their rosters worse to save money and acquire draft picks for the future. This approach, coupled with an increased reliance on data analytics, caused a squeeze on some veteran free agents, inspiring the players’ frustration.
To start spring training on time, the sides would likely need to settle their differences by around Feb. 1.