Is MLB heading toward a strike in 2021? This poll of 63 players says yes
If you ask a bunch of baseball players “yes” or “no” questions, you get some interesting results. That’s just what Bob Nightengale, Gabe Lacques, and Jorge L. Ortiz did at USA Today. They asked 63 baseball players from 18 different teams 10 questions, and while that’s not an enormous sample size, the results are fascinating. And their answers to a question about a possible strike in 2021 might be the most important of all of them.
A majority of respondents think a strike is necessary
USA Today didn’t pull any punches when asking about a possible strike in 2021, which is when the current collective bargaining agreement will end. The question was unambiguous: “Is a strike necessary in 2021 to regain losses incurred in previous CBAs?” 65 percent responded yes, a strike is necessary.
However, it seems that less than half of those asked that question provided an answer. USA Today said that 17 people responded yes, which means that 26 people answered in total. That’s not a lot. But the authors said that many who didn’t give an answer are waiting to see if anything changes in the next three years. If not, they would be willing to go on strike.
They’re done with MLB meddling in the game
The players interviewed by USA Today were nearly unanimous about one issue: they’re done with MLB meddling in the game. While the commissioner’s office might think that baseball’s lack of action is an issue, these players don’t agree. 93 percent of the players surveyed said that they don’t think the increased number of walks and strikeouts (and fewer balls in play) is an issue. 87 percent don’t want MLB to put any limits on defensive shifts. However, they were more divided on the effect of the current pace of play changes. 57 percent said that they’re working, while 43 percent said they weren’t.
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They trust umpires more than technology
Given how many players have issues with strike zones, the answers to these questions were surprising. USA Today asked the players if they’d accept a computerized strike zone in place of an umpire, and 86% said no. Some cited tradition, but others don’t trust whatever technology that MLB would put in place.
USA Today also asked whether the strike zone should be bigger, smaller, or stay the same. An overwhelming majority, 82 percent, said that it should stay the same. Nine percent said bigger, and nine percent said smaller. While we don’t know the positions of all the players who answered, you’d expect that most batters would want the zone smaller, and pitchers would want it bigger. But just four of the 23 hitters who answered that question wanted the zone smaller.
Eric Hosmer told USA Today that instead of an adjusted strike zone, he wants more accountability for umpires. If umpires were more consistent across the board in calling balls and strikes, that could make a difference without materially tinkering with the game.
The poll is a small sample size
Just like a player’s early season batting average, the answers to these poll questions represent a small sample size. There are 750 players in the majors at any given time — 25 men on the rosters of 30 MLB teams — and this poll surveys less than 10% of them. So these poll answers are not representative of what a majority of major leaguers think and feel.
But hearing directly from any major leaguers about these issues is still important — especially a possible strike in 2021. While we’ve heard rumblings about that in the recent past (Yahoo Sports’ own Jeff Passan has reported on players’ dissatisfaction with leadership in the MLB Players Association and in front offices across MLB), this survey shows that it’s still on the minds of players every day. Even those who didn’t answer said that without change, they would be in favor of a strike.
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