This discussion has occurred before. Baseball’s players’ unions and the MLB owners have bumped heads over the years and folks have wondered if these collisions would bring baseball to its knees.
- In 1972 the players went on strike over pension fund issues related to inflation increases. The owners gave in when they realized that the amount they would pay was less than their potential losses in lost games. 86 total games were lost and not made up and the Tigers won the AL East because they played and won one more game than the Red Sox played.
- In 1973 the owners locked the players out of Spring Training over the issue of arbitration, but this was resolved without the loss of any regular season games.
- In 1976 the owners locked the players out of spring training after an arbitrator ruled in favor of players becoming free agents. In the end, no regular season games were missed.
- In 1980 the players went out on strike late in spring training and reached agreement on most issues (see 1981 for exceptions) and no regular season games were missed.
- In 1981 it was a mess. They could not come to an agreement on free agent compensation to the teams losing a player. The owners imposed a plan where a team had to relinquish a player and a draft pick if they signed another team’s FAs. The players went on strike on June 11 and it was not resolved until August 10. The league had pre- and post-strike champs in an uneven split schedule. Teams like the Reds and Cards had the best overall records in the NL, but won neither half and were not in the playoffs. (The Astros benefitted from the split and made the playoffs to be eliminated by the Dodgers).
- In 1985 there was a two-day in-season strike about pension funds and arbitration caps. The games were made up and things went on – but this probably led to the evil “C” word – collusion.
- In 1990 the owners locked the players out of spring training again over free agency and arbitration. The season started late, but all games were played.
- The 1994/1995 strike was the one that hurt baseball the most and probably led to juicing baseballs and turning a blind eye to juicing ballplayers. The strike began on August 11, 1994 and for the first time baseball did not even have a flawed post season. The strike dragged on through most of April 1995 and when the players returned not all the fans returned.
Which leads us to now. The difference today is that there are 41 million people in the US on unemployment due to the effects of the COVID pandemic. Many folks who are employed are doing so at reduced hours or reduced wages or both.
The people just don’t care to hear whining from folks who even at minimum wage for baseball make more than 99% of people do in a year. They don’t care that billionaire owners are having a tough year. They don’t care that players want to be compensated for the “chances” they are taking if they play. They just want it figured out. They don’t want to see how the sausage is made.
If baseball does not figure this out they probably won’t kill that golden goose, but they could put it on life support as far as the folks who are struggling to live in the real world are concerned.