What does it mean to the average fan that the MLB collective bargaining agreement has expired? What effect is created with the team owners having “locked out” the players?  For a third consecutive year, there will be worries about the new season taking place. Essentially all the normal off-season activities involving players are halted.  Because neither the players nor team owners lose money by taking their time over these next couple months, it would be a surprise to see resolution before the second half of January. 

Practical Impacts to Fans

At a practical level there almost certainly won’t be any winter caravan or fan fest types of events in January.   For those with plans to attend spring training games, those could be jeopardy. This is especially true of the late February and early March dates.  As in early 2021, make sure any tickets or reservations for Arizona or Florida are refundable! 

What are the Issues?

The issues from the players’ perspective:

Only the more pessimistic observers expect the 2022 regular season to be affected, but the passage of time eventually could change that confidence.  Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal advised in an MLB Network Radio interview that if this is not settled by Super Bowl Sunday fans really should start to worry about a disruption to the 2022 season. 

View of empty Angel Stadium parking lot from early 2010s. Baseball fans are hoping that MLB stadiums will not sit empty due to a contract dispute extending into spring of 2022. (Photo credit downtowngal; published at WikiMedia under this license)

More Certainty in Minor Leagues

For those who like as much certainty as these unsettled times allow, you might contemplate a minor league game for your first baseball road trip in 2022.  Those players are covered by a different agreement than the MLB players. The minor leagues would not be affected much.  The one effect (mainly for the Triple-A level) is that any player on a major league 40-man roster wouldn’t be allowed to play in minor league games. That would be true if MLB activities remain suspended.  

The coming spring will offer the first time in three years that there will be minor league baseball during April.  Last year, the season was shifted a month later, and essentially ran from early May to the start of October.  To avoid playing in the cold weather of April is a great thing for teams in the north.  Even summer weather wasn’t ideal in 2021 as there were a lot of AAA games affected by rain. This was especially true across the Northeast which had its tenth wettest summer on record.  Teams like the Syracuse Mets had at least 16 games postponed or rescheduled due to rain!

In 2021, the minor league players didn’t arrive at team facilities until April after the MLB players had left camp and started their season.  That was done to minimize potential spread of COVID due to crowded conditions.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the 2022 spring training had the 2021 setup in reverse?  Picture a case where the MLB players don’t reach agreement with the owners in timely fashion.  We could see the minor league players came into camp at the regular time (February-March), and the major league players appearing after an agreement is reached. 

So baseball has settled in for what could be a long winter’s nap.  This gives more time to reflect on the good things that the sport brings us and the pleasures of being a fan.  Here is where to look back on some of the highlights of the 2021 season.