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MLB Lockout Odds: To Play Or Not To Play...

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has an impact on MLB lockout odds

On December 1 at 11:59 p.m., the current MLB collective bargaining agreement will expire and if no agreement is signed before then, a lockout will ensue.

There have been eight work stoppages in MLB history, with the last one having occurred over 25 years ago. In 1994, the season ended on August 11 when the players went on strike midseason. It took 232 days before the labor dispute was resolved and no World Series champion was crowned that year.

Bovada has set MLB lockout betting odds on whether a new collective bargaining agreement will get signed before 11:59 p.m. on December 1.

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Will There Be An MLB Lockout Starting Dec. 2, 2021?

Will There Be an MLB Lockout?
Yes-650
No+400

Odds as of November 29 at Bovada

As the odds reflect, this wager seems like a no-brainer. Everyone is already talking about when and not if the lockout will happen. With only a couple of days remaining until the current CBA expires, there are no reports or indications that anything will get done before the clock strikes midnight.

Although a lockout seems imminent, a labor stoppage in December and January is not a huge concern for baseball fans. Where things start to get interesting is obviously if things drag out into February when spring training is expected to begin.

Bovada has also set MLB lockout betting odds allowing a bettor to wager on whether a potential lockout would extend past the regular season’s scheduled start date.

Will The 2022 MLB Season Start On Time?

Will 2022 MLB Season Start On Time?
Yes-135
No+105

Odds as of November 29 at Bovada

MLB Strike And Lockout History

It’s important to differentiate between a lockout (which this would be) and a strike, which is what happened the last time there was a major work stoppage in MLB. Since 1972, there have been five separate strikes and three different lockouts.

A lockout is initiated by the owners and means that team executives are unable to sign players or make trades involving any player on the 40-man roster while the lockout is in place.

In 1973, the owners locked out the players, with the main issue being salary arbitration. The lockout occurred during spring training and was resolved by late February. Although spring training games were impacted, the regular season started on time.

In 1976, a federal judge upheld a ruling from the previous year allowing pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to become free agents after their contracts expired. The owners quickly locked out the players after the ruling until a new agreement could be signed with the players union. The lockout lasted only 17 days and no games were missed.

The last lockout in MLB was in 1990 and once again salary arbitration and the minimum salary were the key player issues. The lockout stretched until the middle of March, lasting 32 days, but no games were missed.

MLB Player Strikes:

There have been five MLB player strikes, with three of them causing a loss of games during a season. The first strike occurred in 1972 and lasted only 14 days, but caused 86 games to be missed.

In June 1981, the players went on strike and the ensuing labor stoppage lasted 50 days and caused 712 games to be missed. This was the third time the players went on strike, but was only the second time it caused regular-season games to be missed.

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The most famous labor stoppage in baseball history is the unfortunate strike that occurred in August 1994. This was the third time that regular-season games would be missed because of a strike, but it was the first time that a World Series was not played due to labor issues.

The 1994 strike lasted 292 days and the negative impact it had on the sport seems to have sparked some effort by both owners and players to avoid another situation like that one.

What Are The Key Issues This Time?

As we brace for another lockout, let’s examine two of the key issues that need to be resolved.

Currently players are under team control for their first six seasons, with arbitration eligibility being granted after three seasons. That system worked well in past years, when players were compensated with huge contracts once they hit free agency in their late 20s and early 30s.

However, with the help of some advanced analytics, owners are a lot more hesitant to pay players those large contracts later in their career. Owners have recognized that a player is more likely to peak (and perform) at a younger age.

Players are obviously concerned that with teams having control of a player for six years, the window for players to sign big free-agent contracts is much smaller today than in years past. Players are pushing to have the six years of control reduced, allowing them to hit the open market earlier.

The other main issue for the players is tanking. The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs both successfully built championship teams because they allowed themselves to lose a lot of baseball games for several years.

The Astros and Cubs put an inferior product on the field in order to stockpile draft picks. They traded away veteran players for cheaper prospects. Their lose-now, win-later model allowed them to reach their championship aspirations and now many other teams who don’t believe they can compete at the highest level in the short term are trying to copy that tanking model.

With fewer teams trying to win, that means fewer players who will get paid big contracts. Where is the incentive for a team to sign a veteran player who can help them win now, when their goal as a franchise is to try to win three years from now?

Unfortunately for baseball, this is a complicated issue. The success previous teams have achieved by tanking has sparked some teams to reduce payroll and trade expensive players, with an eye toward the future and not the present.

Finding a solution to this issue will take some creativity and most likely a willingness to budge a little on both sides.

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As baseball fans, we should all be concerned about the situation right now. I believe that a lockout is all but certain, and although I never love -650 odds, I think it is definitely the right play for this bet.

However, I am also old enough to remember the impact of the players strike in 1994 and how long the game suffered, even after they finally returned to action. I will take the -135 odds and bet the 2022 season-opening pitch will happen right on time, with both the players and owners working hard to find common ground to make sure that happens.