On March 10, 2022, the MLB lockout came to an end. The first two weeks of the season had been canceled by the league, but they were able to delay Opening Day by a week to salvage the full 162-game season.
One year later, baseball is in a much better place.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred joined WEEI’s Rob Bradford on the Audacy Original Podcast “Baseball Isn’t Boring” for an exclusive interview on the one-year anniversary of the lockout ending.
“We were at the end of the window. We really were. When I went home the night before the player vote, I was feeling pretty low,” Manfred said. “We’d gone back to New York and the night before the player vote actually happened, we had announced we were going to cancel additional games. I thought we were in a really, really bad spot. I went from the office up to my apartment, by the time I got there things had started to move a little bit. Fortunately, we got it done the next day.”
Now, one year later, baseball is looking as strong as ever. That showed in the form of attendance and attention throughout last season.
“We felt like last year we built all year long. Our attendance got better. September, we actually had numbers in September that we hadn’t seen since 2014,” Manfred said. “I thought the playoff format the way it worked out gave us a lot of momentum coming into the year.”
Even with the new rule changes sparking debate, the World Baseball Classic is taking baseball fans by storm and the MLB season should only build on that.
“Our offseason ticket sales have been really strong, stronger than we’ve seen in recent years,’ he continued. “I think the combination of the rule changes and the WBC’s given us real momentum going into this year.”
Manfred experienced the longest work stoppage in baseball history with the strike in the 1990s. He didn’t quite feel that last year was as bad as that one.
“I lived through the period – obviously, in a different role – after the strike in ‘94 and that was the only period of time ever where I felt like the business truly took a step backward,” he said. “It’s why we hung with it and worked really hard to get a deal because obviously, even if it’s a few games, when you lose games it sets you back, absolutely no question about it.”
It’s only been a year, and there are still some things that the league and players will need to negotiate when the CBA expires in 2026, but baseball is headed in the right direction.
Manfred is starting to make his rounds to meet with different teams in spring training. He knows how important it is to have an open dialogue with the players.
“There is (a better feeling),” Manfred said. I’ve only done one so far this year but you make relationships and I think that when you go back and do it again you already have that base of somebody knowing you a little bit and I think the commitment to ongoing dialogue is really important.”
Opening Day is now less than three weeks away. Baseball will be back before you know it.
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