The 2021 World Series ended on Nov. 1 with the Houston Astros falling to the Atlanta Braves in six games. Try to cherish all the feelings you had during that postseason run, as we might not have another this upcoming season.
On Dec. 1, MLB could face its first lockout since the 1994 player’s strike, unless a new Collective. Bargaining Agreement can be agreed upon before then. Today is Nov. 18, so the reality becomes closer everyday that a new CBA before Dec. 1 is about as likely as the Texas Rangers winning the American League West in 2021.
The worst part about the impending lockout is that there will be no free agent signings, no trades, no Rule 5 Draft, and worst of all no spring training or MLB games until a new agreement can be met.
The prediction amongst the baseball world is that a new agreement can be reached before spring training with the worst case scenario being that one is met before Opening Day on March 31.
What’re the issues that could lead to a strike in MLB?
The whole argument is headed by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and head of the MLBPA, Tony Clark. Not to be mistaken for Tony Stark. The issues that exist for the players consist of player salary, competitive integrity (similar to anti-tanking in the NBA), and the Universal DH (which was seen in the shortened 2020 season).
On the owners side the main issue will be money, of course. There’s talk of the owners wanting to expand the postseason, but that could leave the league in a similar situation to the NBA playoffs where nobody cares about the first round.
My prediction is that the Wild Card is expanded to a three-game series, which is not in the best interest for fans of a winner-take-all scenario. Both sides agree, however, that the main issues the league needs to address consist of game time and TV viewership.
Although viewership is up 22% from 2020 and 35% from 2019 (according to Sports Illustrated), its nowhere near the level of the NFL. What really helped this year was the Field of Dreams Game, which was the most watched regular season game since the 90s.
If a lockout shortens the regular season, that is about the worst thing that could happen for viewership, as it would kill any momentum the league had from the past few years. The other large issue is game time.
Manfred has previously said that he wants a game time around two hours, 40 minutes. But this is easier said than done. The main rule change that will help this will be a pitch clock, which you can almost guarantee will be put into effect.
It’s been experimented in the minor-leagues and seems to be a good solution, as it cuts about 20 minutes off the game. The league could also look at limiting the amount of pickoff attempts per game, similar to how mound visits were limited, and getting rid of shifts to increase offense.
Both of these are not guaranteed to happen, so we will see if they are actually implemented. The remaining question will be whether the league will keep the seven-inning doubleheaders and the extra inning runner on second base in the regular season? Personally, I would like to the see both of these stick around.
What to Expect
As the lockout is quickly approaching, I expect a ton of free-agent signings to happen before Dec. 1, as many players want to have their contracts squared away before the lockout begins. This applies to Carlos Correa as well.
I think the Astros will know his fate before the locks are placed on Minute Maid Park, but we will see if he wants to wait. Also, don’t be surprised if you see trades happening up to midnight of Dec. 1.
As a lockout-shortened regular season would kill viewership and growth of the game, I just cannot see a scenario where a new CBA isn’t reached before March 31. My prediction is that a new deal is hashed out right at the beginning of spring training, which will shorten the preseason by a week of two, but still allow for a normal Opening Day.
I think there will be a universal DH, new anti-tanking laws, better player compensation, a pitch clock, limited pickoff attempts, the extra inning runner stays and an expanded Wild Card round. As there are so many possible scenarios, be sure to let us know what you think on twitter.