Do you hear that faint organ in the distance? Take a step outside and you may just feel the wind shift ever so slightly, bringing with it the smell of stale beer, stomped peanut shells and fresh-cut grass.
Major League Baseball is back, everyone. Let us rejoice and be glad.
How the Lockout Ended Between the Players and Owners
Related: MLB Lockout: Everything You Need to Know as Opening Day Gets Pushed
The MLB Players Association and MLB Ownership came to an agreement in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement, which has paved the way for the 2022 baseball season to begin. After a hotly contentious negotiation session that came after weeks and weeks of exchanged blows in the media, both sides have agreed to terms. What are those terms? The story is still unfolding, and new details are coming out every minute, but the big news here is simple: No more canceled regular-season games. Baseball is going to happen in 2022 thanks to the hard work of the MLB players and the MLBPA.
When Does the 2022 MLB Season Begin Now?
What happens next? Free agency speed-run. As reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, transactions will "unfreeze upon ratification... meaning free agents can sign and trades can occur." Freddie Freeman and Carlos Correa better make sure their phones are charged, because they're about to be ringing off the hook.
What we do know so far is that some old favorites and new rules will be implemented in 2022, some of which will make Commissioner Rob Manfred very happy.
The designated hitter, which will completely change the way the National League has played since its inception, will be instituted universally throughout the league. The ill-fated runner on second rule in extra innings will become a relic of the past, as will Madison Bumgarner's favorite innovation, the 7-inning doubleheaders. Both rules were implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic shortened 2020 MLB Season.
Another piece of the game lost to time will be the defensive shift, something fans, pundits and even players have griped against over the last few seasons. We don't quite know how MLB will set the shift restrictions, but it remains to be seen as to whether or not this rule change helps the game pick up its pace.
The new CBA also includes new guidelines for minimum salaries at the MLB level, which will begin at $700,000 this year. For those of you trying to do napkin math, that's a 23 percent increase from last year, and will steadily rise to $786,000 by 20226. The competitive balance tax threshold was increased to $230 million, an increase of almost 10%, and will grow to $244 million by 2026 as well.
Players who are still working their way to the salary arbitration stage of their careers will also be able to dip into $50 million worth of bonus money, which will come from the central revenue fund. This ensures that the game's youngest stars feel compensated fairly and not taken advantage of with service time manipulation.
As for an official start date, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Opening Day will be set for April 7, with spring training games starting around March 18. The delay of the season may have been a disappointment to some fans, the cancellation of the first few series of games now allows MLB's oldest rivalry to take center stage to start the season. That's right, Red Sox vs. Yankees on Opening Day in New York. Talk about a fantastic season-opener.
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Other baseball news includes new guidelines for teams traveling to Canada when they play the Toronto Blue Jays. Following the Canadian government's regulations, players who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will not be able to cross the border or suit up for their teams. This may cause headaches for some teams who have dealt with their own internal issues surrounding vaccinations, such as the Minnesota Twins.
It also remains to be seen how the time-off during the second-longest work stoppage in league history has affected some players' ability to stay in shape for the upcoming season. With teams opening up their spring training facilities almost instantaneously, we're sure those weight rooms are like Planet Fitness on New Year's Day. But, as we've heard from them during the lockout, the majority of players have been champing at the bit to get back on the diamond.
As for us, the fans, we're right there with them. Take us out to the ballgame. WE'RE READY.
Baseball is back and we couldn't be happier.
MORE: The 2022 MLB Lockout is OVER, Let the Free Agency Frenzy Begin
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