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MLB owners lock out players, beginning first labor dispute since 1995

The lockout ends over 26 years of labor peace between MLB and the MLBPA.

2017 Major League Baseball World Series Game Two: Houston Astros v. Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Getty Images

Major League Baseball has locked out its players following a unanimous vote by owners on Wednesday night. After the collective bargaining agreement agreement expired at midnight Eastern time, the league made the announcement through a letter from commissioner Rob Manfred:

The lockout was voluntarily enacted by the owners, but Manfred said in his statement that it was necessary to ramp up pressure, ideally enabling the two sides to reach a deal before the scheduled start of the 2022 season and eliminating the possibility of the players going on strike during the season. The work stoppage ends over 26 years of labor peace, but Manfred wrote that it was needed due to the MLBPA’s unwillingness “to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”

The MLBPA responded by calling the lockout a “dramatic measure” that was “specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits.”

First and foremost, the lockout immediately makes life tougher for players, who are prevented from signing with teams and cannot communicate with their teams’ front-office officials, coaches, trainers, and mental health staff. Beyond having major effects on rehabbing players, these conditions could have adverse effects on the on-field product next year as players train without regular guidance and input from their organizations in this day and age of constant player development.

It also complicates the league’s marketing efforts — and therefore makes it more difficult to reach fans. MLB.com was wiped of references to current players following the lockout announcement, including video highlights, articles, ticket promotion material, and images on roster pages. The differences were immediately noticeable early Thursday:

The lockout also has implications for the league-owned MLB Network, which will have to find unique ways to produce programming that lacks highlights, images, and interviews of current players during the work stoppage.