Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night, resulting in the league's first work stoppage in a quarter-century.
The strategy, management's equivalent of a strike under federal labor law, ended the sport’s labor peace after 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years, according to the Associated Press.
In 1994, the league and its owners immediately locked out players in a move that threatened spring training and opening day.
This time, teams decided to force the expected confrontation with players during an offseason rather than risk them walking out during the summer, as they did in 1994.
Since then, players and owners had reached four consecutive agreements without a work stoppage, but they have been headed toward a standoff for over two years, the wire service reports.
"We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to fans. "We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time."
The union demanded change amid concerns about a declining average salary and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid youth, especially among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild, the Associated Press also reports.