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How MLB lockout threatens Tampa Bay

The 2022 MLB season is threatened by the league’s ongoing lockout which started Dec. 2. CREATIVE COMMONS

Major League Baseball has been stuck in a league-wide lockout since Dec. 2, a roadblock that threatens the financial security of the Tampa Bay Rays and the minor league system as a whole.

The reason for the lockout is strictly political within the business of baseball. The owners of clubs and the players weren’t able to agree on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), a contract between the owners and the players’ union.

One of the major problems that led to this is the disagreement over money and its distribution. 

The owners want more money put into their ball clubs when it comes to postseason TV revenue by expanding the playoffs to more games. In exchange, they are offering to shorten the season by eight games to 154 and a universal designated hitter, according to SB Nation.

Under the previous CBA, owners’ share of revenue increased while the players were getting the short end of the stick. The MLB’s player share dropped to 49.3% in 2021, more than two percentage points lower than it was as recently as 2007.

Players disagree with clubs keeping prospects in the minor league systems due to their contracting. Teams do this so the longer a certain player spends just below the MLB level, the more advantage they have in signing contracts with them for cheap. 

Free agency is a huge subject and players have voiced how they think it should go. At the age of 29.5 years old, if a player has five to six years of time in the league, they should be available in free agency. 

There have also been major complications and arguments over how free agency should work within the league. Players are wanting rules to be in place when it comes to age as well as contract amounts. 

When looking at the MLB, there are many players people can name that make millions off their talents. However, a vast majority reside in the farm systems and are struggling financially to the point that they are needing a second job. 

Players want a minimum salary that is reasonable for the time they put into the game and the expertise they have in their craft, as well as not being held back from playing in the majors. 

In terms of the Tampa Bay area, it won’t be long before the issues that come with this lockout come to light. The longer it takes for these agreements to take effect, the longer Tampa could go without baseball.

There is no timetable for a resolution to this dispute, and thus no start to the season in sight.

Pitchers and catchers are supposed to report to their spring training by mid-February, but if things don’t look up in the first weeks of the month, the delay of baseball would begin.

Simply put, teams will lose a significant amount of revenue every day the lockout is pushed. The Rays already have trouble bringing in money for their ball club, and a lockout is the last thing they need. 

The Rays consistently rank toward the bottom of the league in attendance, ranking 28th in the 2021 season with an average turnout of 9,513 fans.

League-wide, TV viewing numbers and fans in attendance are one of baseball’s main sources of revenue. Ticket sales are what drive each team’s hard cash fund.

There was a similar issue with a shortened season in 2020 coupled with minimal attendance, brought by the onset of COVID-19. With few tickets being sold due to the pandemic, MLB wasn’t making sufficient money. That year, the league generated $3.66 billion in revenue, less than half what it made the previous year, according to Statista. 

With no games in 2022, there won’t be cash flow for the teams any time soon. 

Minor leagues however, will be expected and allowed to play through the lockout since they are not directly affected by a major league lockout. The Bay will still be able to see the Tampa Tarpons and Clearwater Threshers play this season, but this doesn’t mean they won’t face problems. 

The only issue that can arise for them at the moment are those players who may be part of their major league affiliate’s 40-man roster, and are thus a part of the MLB Players Association union. If in the union, the player is locked by the MLB-wide lockout, according to Baseball America.

Sports are a huge economic booster for Tampa with the many championship-winning teams housed here. The lockout’s impact on Tampa Bay baseball will only worsen if action is not taken to resolve this soon.