By Sam Bush
MLB owners seem likely to lock out players next month after commissioner Rob Manfred spoke of hurrying the process of a shutdown to avoid missing games next season.
“An offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different than a labor dispute that costs games,” Manfred said yesterday at MLB’s annual owners’ meetings in Chicago.
The league’s collective bargaining agreement with players is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1.
On Dec. 2, the league is expected to lock out players and shut down the business of the offseason until a new CBA is signed.
The commissioner added, however, that owners remain intent on coming to an agreement with players before the current CBA expires, even as the chances of that possibility fade.
“We did not make a decision today and will not make a decision as to what’s next,” he said. “We’re focused on making an agreement prior to Dec. 1.”
If the league and players can agree on a new contract before February, then spring training seemingly could start on time or near its regular date. Last season, pitchers and catchers began reporting on Feb. 12.
Manfred on Thursday drew from baseball’s history of CBA disputes to frame what he thinks is a method for protecting next season’s schedule.
“We locked out in ’89, ’90,” Manfred said. “I don’t think ’94 worked out too great for anybody. I think when you look at other sports, the pattern has become to control the timing of the labor dispute.
“It’s about avoiding doing damage to the season,” Manfred said.