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1990 Major League Baseball lockout

The 1990 Major League Baseball lockout was the seventh work stoppage in baseball since 1972. Beginning in February, it lasted 32 days and as a result, virtually wiped out all of spring training. Also because of the lockout, Opening Day was moved back a week to April 9. In addition to this, the season had to be extended by three days in order to accommodate the normal 162-game schedule.



The five-year Basic Agreement between the players and owners was set to expire on December 31, 1989. During the buildup to the lockout, the two sides spent months trying to iron out long-standing disagreements over free agency and arbitration. By the end of the 1989 season, salaries for top players were already nearing the $3 million-a-year level. Desperate to stop the salary hike, the owners proposed an economic partnership in which revenue sharing would play a major role.

The owners' plan

Therefore, the owners set forth a plan in which 48% of gate receipts and all revenue from local and network broadcasting would go toward paying player salaries. These salaries would be based on a pay-for-performance scale, in which players with less than six years of experience would be compensated based on a ranking against their peers. Perhaps most importantly, a salary cap would be placed on each club. In the process, there would be a stipulation put in place that teams reaching the said cap could make no more free agent signings or salary increases.

Owners claimed that under the plan, average player salaries would proceed to rise over 20% to $770,000 by the 1993 season. They cited rising attendance figures as well as solid television contracts with CBS and ESPN.

The MLBPA's response

Although revenue sharing of this type had worked considerably well in the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) Executive Director Donald Fehr, feared that a salary cap would restrict the number of choices free agents could make. Also, Fehr argued that a pay-for-performance scale would eliminate multi-year contracts.


Commissioner Fay Vincent worked feverishly with both sides, and ultimately on March 19, a new Basic Agreement was reached. The minimum major league salary was raised from $68,000 to $100,000. Meanwhile, a six-man study committee on revenue sharing was established.

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