Conspiracy Theory Alert: What the MLB are Trying to Hide With Their First Lockout in 25 Years
Last night at 11:59 PM ET, the collective bargaining agreement between the MLB and the Players Association expired, spirling the MLB into their first lockout in more than 25 years. The lockout comes as no surprise--there have been reports of the two [MLB and the MLBPA] not getting along for months, and with the news breaking the other day of just a 30-minute initial meeting between them, signs were not good. This marks a dark period for the MLB--almost going full ghost protocol--amidst a free agent signing frenzy that was one to remember.
Throughout the week, the two parties met on three different occasions and exchanged proposals that, as expected, left the other side displeased, and dug the chasm between the two even deeper. In the final meeting between leaders from both sides on Wednesday afternoon, little to no headway was made--to be fair little or no headway COULD have been made, seeing as the meeting only lasted seven minutes.
Pundits remain optimistic that the two parties will be able to sort this out, seeing the coming months as a more realistic path towards a deal compared to ones in previous years, where things seemed to come down to the wire. If the league and union don’t want this to affect the regular season, the two would have to reach an agreement by early March.
One thing you may find yourself asking is, “These players already get paid millions of dollars to play a game, what else could they possibly need?” Well, to you and I, it may seem like nothing. The union stands by its desire for players to reach free agency more quickly, and for salary arbitration to follow a player’s second year, rather than their third. The union also wants to tackle the manipulation of MLB’s service time rules, and wants to make sure players are getting paid a greater amount earlier in their careers. Seems reasonable, no?
Well, apparently not.
The MLB refused to budge on any of these points, yet did offer to remove draft pick compensation (if a free agent for team A declines the qualifying offer, then team A is entitled to a draft pick in a competitive balance round) and suggested a draft lottery to prevent teams from possibly tanking.
Ultimately it wasn’t enough for the players, so they took their ball and went home...and when they got home, they realized something.
The MLB reportedly used two different baseballs last season, and players claim they had no idea. Dr. Meredith Willis--a baseball doctor I guess--dissected and measured several balls throughout the 2021 MLB season, and found two different cores amongst the many game balls. One core was lighter, thus deadening the ball, while the other was heavier, making the ball fly further.
Now in defense of the MLB, they did announce prior to the 2021 season that they will be using “dead balls” in an attempt to curb offensive production. While the production of these balls did begin, the MLB claims it had to be halted due to a COVID-19 related manufacturing issue, so they had to dip into their reserve of older balls (the heavier ones). Rawlings, the company responsible for manufacturing and providing teams with balls, incorporated excess inventory into its shipments to clubs in order to ensure a full stock of baseballs for the 2021 season.
Our favorite Baseball Doctor, Dr. Willis, says her research contradicts the MLB’s statement. Dr. Willis, by observing the batch codes on each ball, claims that Rawlings continued to manufacture and ship the “dead ball” when they had previously told teams they had to dip into their reserve of “live balls”--and the shipment of the two balls fluctuated throughout the season. So, teams were unknowing as to which balls they were playing with. The MLB has claimed they informed the MLBPA about the ball situation, yet the actual players report knowing nothing of the sort.
While this mostly sounds like a Rawlings problem, it goes deeper than that--because who bought Rawlings back in 2018?
The MLB has been in charge of the company that manufactures baseballs for almost four years now, and seeing as how the earliest reports of a doctored ball came in 2019, it is not a good look for the MLB. It raises the uncomfortable and unfortunate scenario in which the MLB controls not only the production but the shipping of these balls as well--possibly shipping a higher-market team the old balls (so they have more offensive production) while shipping lower-market teams the new balls (lowering their offensive production.) While it’s all speculation, we’ll probably never find out--because all of a sudden we are all distracted by this damning lockout.
Look, I’m a bit of a conspiracy theorist, so of course I’ll be the one connecting these dots with red thread. Conspiracy or not though, it is still a bad look for the MLB. Can the MLB ensure that teams were supplied the same number of new and old balls as each other? How can we take this season’s stats seriously if we don’t know what ball they were hitting? How could the MLB crackdown on pitchers for foreign substances when they were doctoring the balls themselves? All valid questions.
But if I’m being honest, I kind of like where the MLB’s head is at. How about instead of changing the ball up throughout the season, we change it up throughout the game! One ball could be covered in gasoline, while another ball could actually be a pinata that explodes on contact. Maybe we can even create a ball that becomes 12 balls when it is hit, and all those balls are considered live? Listen MLB, if you’re going to change up the ball at least make it exciting--we all know your ratings could use it.