A 2011 MLB lockout could now be on the horizon. This MLB lockout would take place following the 2011 World Series, causing another baseball work stoppage that could really hurt the game. The last time there was a work stoppage, baseball suffered quite a bit before the home run race of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa brought back some fans. The 1994 strike presented some dark days for baseball, eliminating the playoffs that year and causing the World Series to be canceled. It even caused one city to eventually lose its franchise as a result.
Another MLB work stoppage could now take place as the labor agreement comes to an end. Much like in the NBA and the NFL, Major League Baseball salaries have grown to a point where they are out of control, and now the owners are acting like they want to put a cap on their own spending. That in itself will be something that it is hard for fans to swallow, especially after they have witnessed another baseball offseason where the owners have signed some pretty record-breaking deals. The contracts for Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford alone have raised the bar, and it shows that spending might still need to be curtailed.
Potential changes to the collective bargaining agreement could be a cap on salaries, potentially turning into a hard salary cap for the league. Right now there are no real salary caps in baseball, meaning a team can spend as much money as it wants, and any player can make as much money as a team is willing to give him. This environment is something the NBA and NFL has worked hard to get under control, even if some might argue that both of those leagues have completely mangled their own methods of using a salary cap.
Putting a hard salary cap in place would mean that no team was allowed to spend more money than the maximum allowed. Say for instance that baseball instituted a salary cap of $150 million, that would be the ceiling for every team in the league. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox would not be allowed to pay their players more than $200 million per season, and the potential of more parity across the game could become possible. This might make it a reality that some of the smaller market teams could keep up with the bigger markets, but that is only one theory people are playing with.
With the recent contract talks between Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals, it has started to look like the elite players in the league might surpass that $30 million per season salary threshold. That is a remarkably high number of dollars going to one player, and has only been matched in the four major sports by one player. When Michael Jordan was playing his last two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he made more than that each season, a salary that eventually led to the Bulls owners breaking up the team instead of maintaining. That could be something that happens in baseball too if no cap is ever put in place.
The argument in baseball is going to come down to the owners demanding that the players make less money and the players wanting to keep the status quo. What will happen is a work stoppage, a dead free agent market, and potentially the risk that games could be missed. That is a worst-case scenario for Major League Baseball, which has owners who simply cannot afford to miss out on potential revenues. Baseball can’t afford another work stoppage like this, and the players and owners have to get together to try to prevent another one from taking place.
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