Rob Manfred’s latest quotes all but confirm an impending lockout

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to the media, including ESPN’s Jeff Passan, at the Owners’ Meetings in Chicago on Thursday and he all but confirmed that there will be a lockout when the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLBPA expires on December 1.

While he did not directly say that there would be a lockout, he essentially said that it was very likely to happen. Manfred said that he and the owners are “committed to continuing to offer proposals and suggestions in an effort to get to an agreement” by December 1, but he did admit that that “time is becoming an issue.”

But Manfred said that he believes that it would be much better than an in-season strike.

“I can’t believe there’s a single fan in the world who doesn’t understand that an offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different than a labor dispute that costs games,” said Manfred.

A lockout is better than a mid-season strike, according to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

A lockout between the MLB owners and the MLBPA would not have to happen if the two sides don’t come to terms by the expiration of the CBA.

In 1993, the CBA expired on December 31 and transactions continued after that time. They even started the 1994 season on time, but just under the previous CBA guidelines until they came to an agreement. The players decided to go on strike in August of 1994 and they were on strike until the following spring.

As a result, the rest of the ’94 season was cancelled, the playoffs and World Series were cancelled, transactions were halted, and spring training was delayed until early April when a judge (future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor) ruled against the owners, who had just agreed to use replacement players to start the season. Transactions resumed in early April 1995 and the season started late after a truncated spring training. The 1995 season was also shortened to 144 games as well.

But the two sides did not agree on a new CBA until March 1997.

Manfred said that he believes that the owners not locking out on the players between the 1993-1994 offseason was a mistake, though.

“An offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different than a labor dispute that costs games,” said Manfred. “I don’t think ’94 worked out too great for anybody. I think we need to look at other sports. The pattern has become to control the timing of the labor dispute and try to minimize the prospect of actual disruption of the season. That’s what it’s about. It’s avoiding doing damage to the season.”

The two sides have reportedly been meeting numerous times as they met on Wednesday and they are meeting again today. However, according to Passan, there has been “limited progress” on the key economic issues.

Manfred is right in saying that an offseason lockout would be much better than having a strike happen next season but considering what happened with Major League Baseball in 1994-1995 (attendance dropped 20 percent), the two sides need to swallow their pride and get a deal done sooner rather than later.