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CHICAGO — Baseball’s offseason normally is a time filled with hot stove chatter of trades and signings.
This offseason is lining up to be dominated by discussions of negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. That’s the gloomy forecast with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire next month.
Time is ticking with the possibility of owners locking out the players.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark addressed the situation in July prior to the All-Star game in Denver.
“The best I can say is our No. 1 priority is to get to an agreement without a work stoppage,” Manfred said July 13.
Said Clark: “Our goal is to get an agreement done.”
According to The Associated Press, a lower luxury threshold along with a payroll floor were among the early proposals from the clubs while the payroll floor brings about concerns of a salary cap for the players.
Here’s a look at some of the past disputes and what’s ahead.
1994 players strike
Frank Thomas made an accurate prediction in July 1994.
“I have a feeling that if we go out, we’re not going to come back this year,” the Chicago White Sox Hall of Famer said, according to the Chicago Tribune in an Aug. 28, 1994 story.
A salary cap was a standout issue. The players strike started Aug. 12, and MLB canceled the remainder of the ’94 season, including the World Series, a little more than a month later.
The strike ended on April 2, 1995. It lasted 232 days.
“Baseball, real baseball, is just around the corner,” Jerome Holtzman wrote in the April, 2, 1995, edition of the Tribune.
No salary cap. And no replacement players, which was a possibility. But 1995 did include a shortened 144-game regular season.
Baseball hasn’t had a strike or lockout since, in part because the severe hit this one did to fan interest.
There had been seven other baseball work stoppages — three lockouts and four strikes — leading up to 1994.
The first was a players strike from April 1-13, 1972.
“Baseball was hit with its first strike ever today,” Richard Dozer wrote in the April 1, 1972, Tribune.
When it concluded, Dozer quoted MLBPA leader Marvin Miller.
“Clearly the players have triumphed in something that few people thought they could or would do,” Miller said. “They have stood together.”
There was a 12-day lockout in February 1973 and a 17-day lockout in March 1976, both of which impacted spring training.
There was an eight-day strike in 1980 toward the end of spring training.
Following the 1981 strike, which was from June 12-July 31, the season split into two halves. The postseason included a round with division winners from the first half facing winners from the second half.
An Aug. 1, 1981, Tribune story with the headline “Play ball!” summed it up this way: “Neither side claimed victory once the bargaining was over, and perhaps that was just as well: The players gave up a little of their freedom of movement and the owners gave up their goal of punishing owners who sign free agents. But it remains to be seen if both sides gave up the loyalty of their millions of fans.”
A strike also occurred Aug. 6-7, 1985.
There was a 32-day lockout in 1990 with an agreement reached on March 18. The lockout impacted spring training.
“Add it up,” an owner who requested anonymity said in a March 19, 1990 Tribune article. “Add the columns up. It’s a total victory for them.”
The owner added, “The lockout wasn’t bad. The lockout has nothing to do with your negotiations after you’ve locked out. That’s where we’re bad.”
Free agents impacted
Time will tell what, if anything, will change in the system and the impact it will have on free agency.
The current list includes some key members of the 2016 World Series winning Cubs and a Sox pitcher that made big strides this season.
Some of the names to watch are former Cubs Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez along with shortstops Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Corey Seager, second baseman Marcus Semien, first baseman Freddie Freeman and pitchers Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodón, who had a breakout season with the White Sox.
Dates to remember
The five-year contract expires at 10:59 p.m. CST on Dec. 1.
One of the first dominoes to fall could be the winter meetings scheduled for Dec. 6-8 in Orlando, Fla.
Spring training begins in February with the first Cubs and Sox Cactus League games scheduled for Feb. 26.
Opening day is March 31.
If the buildup to the 2020 season is any indication, fans can be in for a frustrating winter.
Proposals and counterproposals dominated the MLB headlines while the game was on pause because of the pandemic.
After weeks of negotiations that couldn’t produce an agreement, the fight concluded when MLB unilaterally issued a 60-game schedule.
2020 included a universal DH for the first time and the sides later agreed to an expanded playoff format. Both of those options could be part of the discussion again this offseason.