By Jim Churchill
This past week Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association came to a new five year labor agreement. This is great news for the owners and the players. Major League Baseball is generating revenue hand over fist. The game has never been healthier, at least from a financial standpoint.
Obviously, the news is great for baseball fans as well. They get their game uninterrupted including the Hot Stove portion of this current off-season.
At the end of the new contract, MLB will have had 26 consecutive years without a strike or lockout. 26 consecutive years! Young fans cannot appreciate how important or how spectacular this run without a work stoppage is.
There was a day when strikes and lockouts were commonplace. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s if you had predicted that someday Major League Baseball and its fans would enjoy 26 straight years without a work stoppage, you would have been laughed at.
– In 1972, a player’s strike lasted 14 days and cost the league 86 games. And the Strike of ’72 may have cost the Red Sox the A.L. East title. Due to the strike, the Red Sox played one less game than the Tigers and finished second in the division!
– In 1973, there was an owner’s lockout that lasted from February 8 – 25. Spring training got a late start, but no games were lost. Out of the lockout, the minimum salary for players went from $13,500 to $16,500! The MLB minimum salary in 2017 will be $535,000.
– In 1976, the year after the dramatic ’75 World Series between the Red Sox and Reds, there was another lockout that affected spring training only. The work stoppage lasted from March 1 – 17. A federal judge ordered that Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally were free agents. This would not be the last time that the free-agency issue would rear its ugly head.
– In 1980, a strike cost the game the final 8 days of spring training, but the season got underway on time. It was a four year agreement, BUT there was a clause that allowed for the free-agency issue to be re-opened in 1981. Guess what happened?
– You guessed it. In 1981, a 50 day strike (June 12 – July 31) cost MLB 712 total games! As a result, owners don’t get directly compensated for the loss of free-agents, but they do get the rights to players for 6 years.
– In 1985, just a 2 day strike in August. No games are lost. See how regular strikes and lock outs were at this point? They struck for two days, like it was a drill for the players.
– In 1990, a 32 day lockout from February 15 to March 18 again gets spring training off to a late start.
– And then, the granddaddy of them all! The strike of 1994 lasted all the way into March of 1995. Clearly, baseball had to hit rock bottom in order to end the cycle of destruction. The 1994 post-season was cancelled!! 232 days. 938 games. And the 1994 playoffs. Poof! A judge ordered that the game be played under the previous rules during the 1995 and 1996 seasons. Eventually, a new agreement was signed in 1997.
The overall tally for the period from 1972 to 1995:
– Five strikes.
– 3 lockouts.
– 367 days.
– 1736 games.
– 1 postseason.
Losing the 1994 postseason was “the last straw”. Baseball quit on us. We would try to quit on baseball, but “the juice” brought us back.
And now, 26 years of harmony in Major League Baseball?! Don’t yawn at the last 21 years of peace. Don’t take the new 5 year deal for granted.
The only thing I took for granted as a young baseball fan was labor strife in the game I loved.
Jim Churchill is the host of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.