Sanders Welcomes End of Major League Lockout But Slams ‘Baseball Oligarchs’

Jerri-Lynn here. So there will be baseball this season after all.  Sanders calls out the owners – aka, baseball’s oligarchs – for causng the 99-day lockout that has delayed players from reporting for spring training for the 2022 season.

Opening Day has been pushed back from March 31 until April 7.

Play ball!

Alas, as a baseball purist, I’m sorry to see the universal designated hitter will go forward this season, and that the postseason will now extend to include 12 teams (from 10). A game that’s losing fans, due to the length of its games and the length of its season, shouldn’t be expanding its postseason further. It’s a completely different game when soft-hitting pitchers don’t have to bat, and although most games I’ve watched over the past several years have incorporated the DH – as I’m a Yankee fan and the American League has long embraced the DH – I’m sorry to see this change implemented for the National League as well.

And Bernie joins the antitrust party with respect to the national pastime,  saying, “We must prevent the greed of baseball’s oligarchs from destroying the game. The best way to do that is to end Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and I will be introducing legislation to do just that.”

I also note Sanders lambastes the owners for abandoning their minor league franchises. As any fan of Bull Durham recognizes, the health of baseball’s minor league teams is important to many cities that host these franchises, as well as to those teams that comprise the Show.

By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams

As Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced Thursday that they’d come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders welcomed news that the 99-day lockout was over and the full 162-game season would be saved and promised to introduce a bill aimed at ending the “baseball oligarchs'” antitrust exemption.

While Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement that he is “delighted to see an agreement reached so that the Major League Baseball season can start,” he slammed the “unacceptable behavior” of team owners, who he said “negotiated in bad faith for more than 100 days in a blatant attempt to break the players’ union.”

“We are dealing with an organization controlled by a number of billionaires who collectively are worth over $100 billion,” the democratic socialist and two-time U.S. presidential candidate noted. “It should be clear to all that these baseball oligarchs have shown that they are far more concerned about increasing their wealth and profits than in strengthening our national pastime.”

Sanders excoriated the owners for eliminating their teams’ affiliation with more than 40 minor league ballclubs, “not only causing needless economic pain and suffering but also breaking the hearts of fans in small and mid-sized towns all over America.”

The senator took the “baseball oligarchs” to task for paying minor league players “totally inadequate wages,” for seeking to “eliminate the jobs of another 900 minor league players,” and for taking “billions of dollars in corporate welfare from taxpayers to build expensive stadiums” while charging “outrageously high prices for tickets that many working-class families cannot afford.”

“It would be wrong for Congress to simply celebrate today’s agreement and move on,” Sanders asserted. “We must prevent the greed of baseball’s oligarchs from destroying the game. The best way to do that is to end Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and I will be introducing legislation to do just that.”

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  1. griffen

    I know that the aspect of the minor leagues has been discussed and covered here before. While I’m somewhat glad the big league will start in April and apparently play a full schedule, if MLB continues with these lockout scenarios once per decade, I suggest that casual fans will just be less willing to come back.

    It took awhile for me to come back, not because of lockouts but just the yawning chasms of the supremely higher payrolls that big market teams can afford. That and young phenom players busted for PED abuse and not seeming to care what they had done. Throw in a farcical pitching semi scandal for good measure.

    Nice touch on Bull Durham. “don’t think, it can only hurt the team”

  2. Larry

    Baseball is largely dead to me as I find attending a Red Sox game far to expensive to be worth the while. Arguably the most expensive bar in the city with the some of the most expensive seats to boot. No thanks.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Expensive seats, and the most obnoxious fans (which is saying something since I’m a New Yorker, and Yankee fans can be awful) in baseball.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I miss the days when you could call the Sox box office and buy tickets the day of the game for under $10. I still remember the phone number even though I probably haven’t dialed it in 30 years – 617-267-1700! Now all the tickets for the whole season are snatched up by online resellers the day they go on sale – still trying to figure out how it’s legal if you scalp a ticket on the internet but not if you do it in front of the ballpark.

      I love the Sox but I’m a lot less willing to pony up a week’s pay to go see a game with a bunch of rich jerks in a “family” environment. Used to be you could sit in the Fenway bleachers and give the obnoxious opposing team fans a beer shower and still finish watching the game. Pretty sure those days are gone – cops will be all over you for that now.

      The main reason I have any TV service at all is so I can get NESN to watch the Sox and they can’t seem to make a long term deal with any service, so I’m constantly switching services as NESN gets dropped, and even then the cheapest I’ve been able to find is $70/month.

      Between the high prices, the sanitization of the experience, and social media reducing everyone’s attention span to that of a gnat, it’s no wonder people are tuning out. But, it’s still free to listen to on the radio which I find myself doing more and more again, just like when I was a kid and NESN didn’t exist yet.

      Regarding the new rules, I also liked the quirkiness of a DH in just one league but I can live with the change. I also like the other rule changes for the most part. I hate how analytics have changed the game for the worse, causing defenses to shift and hitters to swing for the fences all the time as a result. I wish hitters would have simply started laying down more bunts which would have gotten rid of the shift naturally, but I’ll take banning it if that’s the only way to get rid of it. Home run derby should be relegated to the All Star game again – not a fan of every middle infielder thinking they’re Big Papi.

      And good on Bernie for calling out the billionaire owners for what they really are – oligarchs, just like the ones in Russia or any other country. The US isn’t special.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          There are, and I go watch a few of those every year. You can still get a ticket for around $10. Parking at the city owned lot near the ballpark actually costs more than a ticket But part of the reason for that is that the MLB oligarchs see to it that the minor league players make poverty wages. And as noted above, MLB just eliminated a few dozen minor league teams across the country for no really good reason. Good article from Harper’s on that –

      1. Another Scott

        If you’re looking for the Red Sox, I would consider getting subscription to to stream the games, and then a VPN so that you are out of the blackout zone. Someone I talked to last year said the combined cost ran to under $300 per year, which isn’t great, but is far better than getting cable or an expensive package simply for the Red Sox.

  3. Screwball

    As someone who considers baseball as the greatest game ever. A game that was my life until I was 24, and part of my life after that. I’m 64, my goal in life was to play MLB, until I ruined my arm when I was 24. Then I coached everything from little league to high school until I was 40. I was in love.

    Not anymore. Go away for all I care. Between the greedy owners, the greedy players, the BS stadium deals, tax avoidance, and the numerous strikes and lockouts over the years, enough. You may have better athletes today, but I’m not sure they are better baseball players. Then the roids, the lockouts, the strikes, free agency inflation – it’s always about the money.

    Just go away – I would rather go to the park and watch little kids having fun than a bunch of roided up greedy musclebound jerks try to play a game they cannot. Remember when Jose Canceco had a fly ball bounce off his head into the stands for a home run? That’s OK, hit a ball 500 feet and you can leave the glove in the bus.

    Go away! Oh, your back? Well I’m not. This divorce is final.

    1. savedbyirony

      Just to put a plug in here for a great balls and strikes alternative. The NCAA softball tournament will be coming up in May. ESPN covers it from first round games to the final championship out. Great athletes, well paced games and not overly commercialized.

    2. bidule

      For my part, not really fond of any sport and a European from the continent, baseball is beyond comprehension. I find the game… boring. For me, baseball is what painting is for a blind, or symphony for a deaf.

      You are lost in the middle of nowhere, but you encounter your savior: a native. You ask him for directions, in the best english you can emulate from these BBC shows, which you can pretty much understand even without subtitles. The guy scratches his head, looks at the blue sky, turns around contemplating the magnificient view; and you feel in your guts that not only will he tell you where you are, here and now, but also where you are in Scotland (since Scotland it is), on the face of Earth and maybe even in the Universe. And then he speaks.

      You nod vehemently at strategic moments, put a large smile on your face, and with a lot of hand waving (because, now, your are painfully aware that your english will never match the real thing), try to express him how much you are grateful for his help. Then you go back to your car and say to your friend that it might make sense to start sparing water and food. Just in case. Because it may take longer than expected.

      I am quite convinced today that baseball, whatever you may tell me, is a game invented by Scots.

      1. JBird4049

        The Scots!? Say what? Blasphemy.


        Truly, baseball comes from when playing or seeing a game was the thing for a long afternoon. Not for the hustle and the bustle, but just to experience. A game from 19th century. Get a hotdog and a beer. Fun for a few dollars and a day with friends under the sun. Or in Candlestick aka the ‘Stick freezing your posterior off in June.

        But now it’s all about the bezzle, greed. Something destroyed for greed.

    3. Barking Tribe

      Triple a, double a, whatever, the only thing entertaining is college ball, but it has it’s up’s and down. My kid played for 10 years, travel ball, pitched, two no-hitters. He’ll never forget it, but us, traveling taking in the tournaments, enjoying the competition, we just look at each other now and nod you can see MLB is nothing more than money ball.

  4. redleg

    Baseball chased the easy money of pay TV, nearly eliminating local TV audience that doesn’t pay to see a game. Eliminating those free local broadcasts, IMO, is why the interest in the game is waning. MLB, and US sports in general, takes fans for granted when the reality is that fans need to be cultivated.
    It’s like a farmer who doesn’t plant any seed but wonders where the crop is at harvest time.

    1. Wukchumni

      It wasn’t uncommon on the back of a baseball card in the 1960’s or early 70’s to mention what sort of job the player had in the off-season, as many needed a second occupation for the owners were in lockstep against paying up for talent, who were often de-facto slaves earning more than a regular Joe, but shackled somewhat.

      The situation is 180 degrees away from what it was, with big money assured to any that make the show, although its not enough or too much-depending on whether you’re a player or an owner, but for former fans of the game (combined with platooning, and pitchers that sometimes can go 5 innings as the new normal) or those who only watch once the playoffs come around. (i’ll be a lot less interested this fall with teams involved that shouldn’t be-thanks to expanded opportunities {mo’ money} for 2nd rate teams)

      What has MLB done to address the young adult fans who got raptured eons ago, and are staying away in droves?

    2. PKMKII

      Now there’s going to be two Friday games each week that will only be on Apple+. So even you pay for cable to see your local team or pay for an subscription, you’ll have to pay big Apple on top of that for all local games/all games.

  5. MP

    As someone who has followed every single silo in the negotiations from the start–and the start was really March of 2020–this was an incredibly wild ride. March 2020 rendered the “March agreement” which agreed upon pro rata salaries and covid-season related rules, like ghost runners and seven-inning doubleheaders and a number of changes that partially held through 2021.

    Then the March agreement was reneged by the commissioner, looking to seek sub-pro rata pay for about a 120-game season. That began the first battle of the war where the owners stalled and whined until the inevitable 60-game season they wanted anyway came on the calendar, and they unilaterally imposed it. This spurred a $500 million lawsuit disputing that the owners couldn’t afford more than 60 games, which would prompt an opening of financials.

    Then the negotiations technically continued through the 2021 season only for it to really start after the CBA expired and the commissioner executed the lockout to, in his words, “move the process forward.” The owners waited 43 days for their first real offer, speaking to none of the players concerns around pre-arbitration pay, arbitration eligibility, earlier free agency, and the “competitive tax threshold,” a fancy name for a salary cap with plausible deniability (penalties that owners can claim they really want to avoid). There were multiple “deadlines” to have a 162-game season, and the owners leaked to the press that deals were “close” as the deadline approached only for the owners to add in a last-minute proposal to get the players to deny so the owners could deflect blame. First a 14-game playoff (now 12), then an international draft (which the union will consider by July 25th), and then an agreement to drop the 2020 lawsuit (which ultimately succeeded and ended the lockout).

    The final vote was 26-12. 8-0 for the executive committee, who were way more radicalized by 2020 and supposedly rankled by the competitive balance tax numbers (still unclear exactly until more reporting is done), and the rank-and-file were happy with their $50 million pool for pre-arbitration players and increased minimum salaries. It’s not clear what caused the divide but the owners will be happy to exploit as their media proxies already claimed that Scott Boras, top agent, was to blame for the “disconnect” between the rich executive subcommittee (their proxied words) and the salt-of-the-earth team reps.

    At the end of the day the players got a better distribution of pay to younger players but a shrinking share overall of a larger pie; MLB inked a new deal with Apple that could run $100 million-plus per season, where teams all get a cut. An NBC deal is also on the horizon, meaning fans will need Apple TV+, Peacock,, Fox Sports, and their regional sports network to watch every game. Not to mention new revenue streams on gambling, which are enormous. So while the players are doing OK on checkers, the owners are playing financial chess.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Baseball is still relevant to some people. Perhaps a few million people still care about baseball. If Sanders’s comments about the baseball owner oligarchs reach these people and lead some of them to apply the same concerns and analysis to life outside of baseball, then the remarks may be useful.


    The problem with baseball’s appeal isn’t in the game or season lasting too long. The average casual fan likes high-scoring games more than pitchers’ duels, and the former last longer than the later. The problem is that MLB itself does way too little to market the game and, more importantly, the stars of the game. Right now, the game has a GOAT in the making in Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani is doing something not seen in nearly a century, personalities like Fernando Tatis Jr., Byrce Harper, etc. Yet MLB does a tiny fraction of what the NFL and NBA does to market their stars.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I don’t think the stars are a problem. Its the nature of the game. I saw an article on second favorite teams, and for most of the country, its the Braves with the Cubs in certain areas because they were on tv all the time. Red Sox fans are churned out through Boston area colleges. Its like a factory for the insufferable. The non-Sox fans go to games with their new Sox fan friends or get caught up in the enthusiasm.

      Then there are a myriad of articles about older people listening to games in the back ground. Its how they follow it. Baseball is a game. Its what you turn your attention to when its time to slow down. 162 games need to be broadcast. All 19 Red Sox v Yankee game could be dull, but hey, a no hitter is a no hitter even if its between Baltimore and the Brewers in a meaningless game in July. A win in April counts as much as a win September.

      As far as Ohtani (it’s his personality and choice to be in Anaheim), but how often is he really on if you don’t get the MLB network or pay for that package?

      I liken it to the game Fortnite. What is the appeal of Fortnite? It has two. One, its easy, and two, it can just be accessed at the drop of a hat. Baseball needs to get there again.

      Byrce Harper

      Odious is a personality.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Harper is anathema. How a guy who has a torrid 2-3 week run every year and then is average or below for the rest of the season can be one of the highest paid superstars is beyond me. He can’t hold Mike Trout’s filthy jockstrap. I made the mistake of doing a desperate late season trade in my fantasy league for him one year, trying to hold on to my league lead, and he killed me. Couldn’t hit a home run if he were playing in a silo, much less steal a base which is what I needed him to do.

        Along with Joe Biden, Bryce Harper also owes me $600 which coincidentally was the winning payout that year.

  7. greensachs

    On occasion the corporate overlords ticket trickle finds it’s way to the lower orders. So, I grab mitt, tennis shoes (needing to walk a mile, avoiding prohibitive parking costs) along with a 16 oz can of beer to gulp before the hike, evading the outlandish price of a warm brew from a single use plastic cup.
    Why wouldn’t we be disappointed in “family” professional sports entertainment.

  8. Maritimer

    Please Don’t Take Me Out To The Ballgame—I’m trying to starve Monopolies and stay awake.

    1. Wukchumni

      They don’t play it much @ the 7th inning stretch anymore, often replaced by America the Beautiful or other patriotic tunes.

      I think it’s on account of so many young people being horribly allergic to peanuts, and the lyrics are essentially an assisted suicide note…

      Take me out to the ball game,
      Take me out with the crowd.
      Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
      I don’t care if I never get back

  9. David in Santa Cruz

    I was a die-hard Giants fan ever since growing up watching Willie Mays perform a miracle every time I saw him take the field (sure, Willie took “pep-pills” — and I gave his godson Barry a pass for his late-career juicing). During the bad-old 1970’s I could get a ticket, a couple dogs, a couple beers, and a parking-space and have change back from a twenty. However, I agree with my friend who let his season tickets go when the billionaire owners moved the team from the public toilet of Candlestick Park to the just-so confines of whatever-they’re-calling it in China Basin.

    He said that it wasn’t fun to be a fan when the little old ladies in beat-up warm-up jackets covered with pins — KSFO screwed into one ear, a Kent screwed-into one corner, a stub-pencil, and a scorecard — got priced-out of the game in favor of dilettantes who sit in foul territory with their backs to the game noshing on anything but a hot dog or a bag of peanuts.

    It’s just a game, for gosh sakes. Nobody should get rich off of a bunch of grown men playing a game…

    1. Wukchumni

      Somewhere, I have a Croix de Candlestick pin that they used to give out to those subject to bitter cold and windy conditions when in theory they were enjoying a baseball game.

      1. JBird4049

        I enjoyed Candlestick, but just had to take certain precautions. Like my down feather jacket, knitted cap, and gloves. Of course, my nose would still freeze.

        I agree with the commentariat about the pricing out of many people from going to the games, but isn’t this true with much else? Sports, concerts, plays? Even museums are getting expensive. About the only people who are able to go are the top 10-20% leaving out the other 50% or more that also used to go. I guess those who control all those venues find it more profitable to milk the upper classes instead of having the increasingly poor peons be able to go as well.

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