MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has an impact on MLB lockout odds

MLB Lockout Odds: When Is Opening Day?

For almost 100 days, Major League Baseball’s ownership group has locked out its players after the MLB collective bargaining agreement expired in December.

This is the ninth work stoppage in MLB history, as MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has already announced the first week of 2022 games will be canceled and Sportsbook day will be delayed. It’s hard to say when the MLB lockout will end, but lockout odds from Sportsbook give us an idea.

Sportsbook has set MLB lockout betting odds on what month the 2022 season will start in and how many games will be played this season. We break down those MLB lockout odds and some general lockout/strike history below.

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When Will The 2022 Regular Season Start?

MLB Lockout Odds: MLB Season Starting Month
July or later+250
No Season+500

Odds as of March 4 at Sportsbook

With a first week of games canceled and more delays likely on the way, it’s not hard to see why these odds are so pessimistic of a baseball season this year. However, the +175 favorite, May, does seem like a reasonable timeline for 2022 Sportsbook day.

The MLB’s owners still need to fulfill obligations to television networks and the players will want to get on the field as soon as possible (after a fair deal is agreed upon) so a mid-May Sportsbook day is certainly on the table.

If we get beyond May without a deal, however, I think there’s some solid value in no season, as brutal as that would be.

Total Games Played During 2022 Regular Season

How Many Games Will Each Team Play This Year?

Odds as of March 4 at Sportsbook

Another MLB lockout betting odds market available to wager on is the number of games that will be played this year. An optimist who thinks the season will start in May still can probably safely bet on the OVER 120.5 games mark, but if the lockout lingers, the UNDER could cash.

MLB Strike And Lockout History

It’s important to differentiate between a lockout (which this is, so far) 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 now four 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 Of The MLB Lockout?

As we slog through another MLB lockout, let’s examine some 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, and the players cost owners a lot less when they’re younger, too.

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 get younger players paid more with higher league minimum salaries and some other creative economic proposals like a bonus pool for the top young stars.

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.

Concepts like expanded playoffs and competitive-balance taxes are both being discussed in CBA talks right now, and have an impact on tanking teams and incentivizing competition in the league.

Finding a solution to this issue will take some creativity and most likely a willingness to budge a little on both sides. There’s been some agreement and movement already, but there’s still a long way to go before we have baseball back and the MLB lockout is over.

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