Yesterday at midnight, the world of baseball came to a screeching halt. The players of Major League Baseball and the MLB team owners failed to come to an agreement on a new labor contract. There is a wide chasm to be crossed before both sides come to an agreement and the gears of Major League Baseball can begin to turn again. MLB owners want to continue to make astronomical amounts of money and players want a bigger piece of that then they have had access to in the past. This to me, seems like it could be a long drawn out battle that carries on longer than anyone would like. Lockouts have happened in the past, but I am not sure we have ever seen a lockout like this one.
I may have been born after the previous lockout of 1995, but I have a feeling the lockout of 2021 will certainly not be like any lockout of the past. We as a society are in a new era. This new era gives the average fan a way to connect to players and teams like never before. Social media allows us, the average fan, so much inside access and the power to influence baseball like never before seen in the past. Just today we saw the players come together and change their profile pictures in an united statement to Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball players have more leverage than ever before. I am not sure the players have ever had the ability to persuade the public opinion like they do now. Imagine the year is 1995, and maybe twice a week, you see a statement from the MLBPA roll across the front page of your local newspaper. Now in 2021, you log on to Twitter and see player after player making statements or changing their picture on an hourly basis. The more the players can connect with fans, the more they can sway the court of public opinion in their favor. The players have more power than ever and the owners are ill-prepared.
Lets be frank, we all know the demographics of the majority of MLB owners and these are a group of people who I think are greatly overestimating the amount of leverage they have at the bargaining table. This group of owners have been in control of the conversation and media for so long, they are almost blind to the changing landscape. This very site showed that when they, and one dearly departed writer, took matter into their own hands and were nearly single handedly responsible for removing someone who overestimated his power from his position. Owners are still using the old fashioned press-release style statements from none other than Rob Manfred to try and get their point across to the general public. This style of public messaging is so out of date that you see it widely mocked by prominent figures in the baseball industry and fans alike. The owners are about to be blindsided by the amount of power the players have and that could cause this lockout to last longer than a lot of people expect.
This lockout reminds of media coverage of the Vietnam war. Before the Vietnam war, governments could send countless masses across oceans to give their lives and then control the messaging at home to keep public support for a war effort positive. Suddenly Vietnam came around and all a person had to do at home was switch to a news channel and see footage directly from the frontlines and see the horrors of war happening right in front of them. Public support for a war was unsalvageable and prominent people had to begin caving to public pressure. I believe this is exactly what we will see happen to the owners in this lockout. Social media is going to give the players so much leverage that I don't think they are going to give in until they get the majority what they want. Social media is going to be this lockout's Walter Cronkite.
Recent lockouts have lasted anywhere from about two weeks to a little over a month, but I personally believe this lockout is on track to be a very lengthy one. I do not think the owners are going to give in, but I don't believe the players are going to give in when they have the ability to take near complete power and control in the form of public opinion for the first time ever. This will be the first lockout we see in this new era and the first lockout where fans are involved just as much as the MLB and MLBPA. In the past fans were a pawn of the owners. The owners could claim that players were being selfish and taking the game away from the fans who were "paying their salaries" and there was no way for players to form a cohesive rebuttal. Today fans are more connected and sympathetic towards the players than ever if social media is any indication. We can have conversations on Twitter with our favorite players. We all have access to and are educated on the statistics behind which kind of players are the biggest contributors to championship teams and how much they are being paid. Social media has made us all aware of how teams can take advantage of things like service time and fans more often than not very anti-ownership and pro-player. I am unaware of any other time in MLB history where fans held these beliefs.
I hope I am wrong, but I don't believe that there is an end in sight for this lockout for at least a couple of months and potentially into spring training. I think the players being able to control conversations and public opinion is going to turn these negotiations into a near never ending battle. Every lockout is going to be a whole new kind of animal to tame, but this lockout is going to be the most different from any one that has happened in recent history. How does everyone else feel about how this lockout is going to go? Do you think it'll be resolved quick? What changes do you think are going to come with the new CBA? Do you think this is the first time players really have power or do you think this is more just of the same status quo?