As Major League Baseball and its players’ association approach the expiration of their collective agreement, the parties must overcome their differences on many issues, including a potentially expanded playoff format that would benefit ESPN Inc.
The current collective agreement ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on December 1, when owners should generally order a player lockout if a new pact isn’t made.
Seeking to increase its revenue base, MLB wants to grow the playoff list from 10 to 14 teams, with a significant increase in the Wild Cards round.
Wilder Wild Card
In signature A new seven-year deal with MLB that will take effect in 2022, ESPN has significantly reduced its regular-season playing engagement, but it holds the rights to a potentially expanded Wild Card round that could feature a trio of games in the game. best of three in the US and National leagues.
In the 10-team playoff format, there were two Wild Card entrants in each league, opposed in a home game winning or departing, with ESPN (US) and TBS (US) from Warner Media LLC. . presenting a game each.
During the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, which saw the regular season reduced to 60 games on a 162-game roster, the MLB used an expanded 16-team playoff format. ESPN broadcast seven of the best eight of the three Wild Card rounds, with TBS carrying the other. Before MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred instituted the shortened regular campaign and revised playoff structure amid the pandemic, MLB had proposed a 14-team playoff format.
Regular season review
At the start of the 2022 season, the MLB’s national lineup will be different. Thanks to its new pact, TBS, which aired non-exclusive contests on Sunday afternoons in the latter half of the program, will now have a weekly Tuesday night window and pre-match show, as well as extensive digital rights .
ESPN will continue to host 25 exclusive “Sunday Night Baseball” TV shows, as well as a handful of games with playoff implications in September 2022. The network can also broadcast them simultaneously on the ESPN + streaming service. However, it will no longer feature non-exclusive games on Monday and Wednesday evenings. MLB should try to make new deals with digital players for these contests.
For its part, FOX Sports will continue to broadcast regular season competitions on FOX (US) and FOX Sports 1 (US). As was the case with contracts that expired with the 2021 season, FOX Sports and TBS will alternate coverage of the Division and the Championship Series through their contracts which now run from 2022 to 2028. FOX holds the rights exclusive to the World Series.
Aside from the wider playoff push, there are a number of key financial issues facing the parties: age and terms of service for free agency and salary arbitration; higher minimum wages; the level of competitive balancing tax, or luxury tax, that teams must pay above certain collective team salary thresholds; and an overhaul of the draft system, which discourages teams from missing the playoffs to secure the highest possible player selection position.
On the field, the parties could also align themselves with the use of the designated hitter in the National League. Introduced by the American League in the 1973 season to improve offense and run production, the Designated hitter – or its equivalent – is now deployed throughout organized baseball and softball in the United States, with the exception of the senior MLB circuit. There are also calls for the institution of a pitch clock to speed up the pace of the game.
Implications of locking
If a lockout were to ensue, it would be the first work stoppage in the sport since the 1994-95 players’ strike. The games have the luxury of time as the 2022 regular season begins on March 31, 2022, with all 30 clubs in the field.
However, a prolonged standoff would not only reduce list building, but also likely put a damper on ticket sales.
Last season, as the pandemic limited stadium capacity until June, MLB drew 45.3 million fans, up from 68.5 million in 2019. MLB derives about 40% of its revenue from the sale of tickets and income related to the doors.