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1981 baseball strike

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The 1981 baseball strike was the fifth work stoppage in Major League Baseball history. The strike began on June 12 and forced the cancellation of 713 games (or 38 percent of the Major League schedule) in the middle of the regular season.

An estimated $146 million was lost in player salaries, ticket sales, broadcast revenues, and concession revenues. The players lost $4 million a week in salaries while the owners suffered a total loss of $72 million.

The Strike DeadlineEdit

The Executive Board of the Players' Association voted unanimously to strike on May 29 due to the unresolved issue of free agent compensation. The deadline was extended briefly, however, after the Players' Association's unfair labor complaint was heard by the National Labor Relations Board.

Reasons for the StrikeEdit

The strike was called in response to the owners desperately wanting to win back the prerogatives over the players. The owners had already lost at the bargaining table and in the courts on the issue of the free agency draft. At issue during the seven week long negotiations was the owners demanding compensation for losing a free agent player to another team. The compensation in question was a player who was selected from the signing team's roster (not including 12 "protected" players). The players maintained that any form of compensation would undermine the value of free agency.

ReactionEdit

Although the strike was called by the players, many sportswriters and even fans placed most of the blame on the owners. Sports Illustrated reflected this particular opinion loud and clear with the cover headline that read "Strike! The Walkout the Owners Provoked." One of the reasons the owners doled out such hefty contracts from 1978-1981 (43 players each negotiated contracts worth over $1 million during this period) was because they were afraid of losing disgrunted stars in the free agency reentry draft. So the owners paid their players the so-called new going rate in order to keep them from going elsewhere.

The Strike EndsEdit

On July 31, 1981, a compromise was reached. In the settlement, teams that lost a "premium" free agent could be compensated by drawing from a pool of players left unprotected from all of the clubs rather than just the signing club. The settlement gave the owners a limited victory on the compensation issue.

Reportedly, the negotiations were so bitter that when a settlement was finally reached, Major League Baseball Players Association representative Marvin Miller and the owners' negotiator, Ray Grebey, refused to pose with each other for the traditional "peace ceremony" photograph.

The All-Star GameEdit

Major League Baseball resumed on August 9 with the All-Star Game in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. The All-Star Game, which was originally scheduled to be held on July 14, now served as a prelude to play resuming on August 10.

When play resumed, attendance dropped in 17 of 26 cities and television ratings slumped sharply. Ironically, despite the disgruntled fans, the All-Star Game surprisingly had the largest crowd ever in attendance (72,086).

The Split-Season FormatEdit

Main article: 1981 American League Division Series
Main article: 1981 National League Division Series

Due to the two-month strike, the owners tried to create an equitable solution. So on August 6, the owners decided to split the 1981 season into two halves, with the first-place teams from each half in each division (or a wild card team if the same club won both halves) meeting in a best-of-five divisional playoff series. The four survivors would then move on to the two best-of-five League Championship Series. It was the first time that Major League Baseball used a split-season format since 1892.

FlawsEdit

The split-season idea (although garnering the league more playoff revenue) wasn't without its flaws and criticism. A proviso was added that if a team won its division in both halves of the season, it would still face a playoff round against the second-place club in the second half. All of the first-half winners lacked incentive (as opposed to the minor leagues where if the same team did win both halves it was given a bye into the next round) to repeat and ultimately dawdled through the second-half of the season with a composite record of only three games above .500. To make matters worse, the Cincinnati Reds (National League West) and St. Louis Cardinals (National League East) each failed to make the playoffs. This was despite the fact that they had the two best full-season records in the National League that season. In contrast to the Reds' and Cardinals' bad luck, the Kansas City Royals made the postseason despite owning the fourth-best full-season record in their division and posting a losing record over all (50-53).

Major League Baseball Final StandingsEdit

First Half of SeasonEdit

American League
Rank Club Wins Losses Win % GB
East Division
1st New York Yankees 34 22 .607 --
2nd Baltimore Orioles 31 23 .574    --
3rd Milwaukee Brewers 31 25 .568    --
4th Detroit Tigers 31 26 .544    --
5th Boston Red Sox 30 26 .536    --
6th Cleveland Indians 26 24 .520    --
7th Toronto Blue Jays 16 42 .276    --
West Division
1st Oakland Athletics 37 23 .617    --
2nd Texas Rangers 33 22 .600    --
3rd Chicago White Sox 31 22 .585    --
4th California Angels 31 29 .444    --
5th Kansas City Royals 20 30 .400    --
6th Seattle Mariners 21 36 .368    --
7th Minnesota Twins 17 39 .556    --
National League
Rank Club Wins Losses Win %   GB
East Division
1st Philadelphia Phillies 34 21 .618    --
2nd St. Louis Cardinals 30 20 .600    --
3rd Montréal Expos 30 25 .545    --
4th Pittsburgh Pirates 25 23 .521    --
5th New York Mets 17 34 .333    --
6th Chicago Cubs 15 37 .288    --
West Division
1st Los Angeles Dodgers 36 21 .632    --
2nd Cincinnati Reds 35 21 .625    --
3rd Houston Astros 28 29 .491    --
4th Atlanta Braves 25 29 .463    --
5th San Francisco Giants 27 32 .458    --
6th San Diego Padres 23 33 .411    --

 

Second Half of SeasonEdit

American League
Rank Club Wins Losses Win % GB
East Division
1st Milwaukee Brewers 31 22 .585    --
2nd Boston Red Sox 29 23 .558    --
2nd Detroit Tigers 29 23 .558    --
4th Baltimore Orioles 28 23 .549    --
5th Cleveland Indians 26 27 .491    --
6th New York Yankees 25 26 .490    --
7th Toronto Blue Jays 21 27 .438    --
West Division
1st Kansas City Royals 30 23 .566    --
2nd Oakland Athletics 27 22 .551    --
3rd Texas Rangers 24 26 .480    --
4th Minnesota Twins 24 29 .453    --
5th Seattle Mariners 23 29 .442    --
6th Chicago White Sox 23 30 .434    --
7th California Angels 20 30 .400    --
National League
Rank Club Wins Losses Win %   GB
East Division
1st Montréal Expos 30 23 .566    --
2nd St. Louis Cardinals 29 23 .558    --
3rd Philadelphia Phillies 25 27 .481    --
4th New York Mets 24 28 .462    --
5th Chicago Cubs 23 28 .451    --
6th Pittsburgh Pirates 21 33 .389    --
West Division
1st Houston Astros 33 20 .623    --
2nd Cincinnati Reds 31 21 .596    --
3rd San Francisco Giants 29 23 .558    --
4th Los Angeles Dodgers 27 26 .509    --
5th Atlanta Braves 25 27 .481    --
6th San Diego Padres 18 36 .333    --

 

Overall RecordEdit

American League
Rank Club Wins Losses Win % GB
East Division
1st Milwaukee Brewers 62 47 .569    --
2nd Baltimore Orioles 59 46 .562   1.0
3rd New York Yankees 59 48 .551   2.0
4th Detroit Tigers 60 49 .550   2.0
5th Boston Red Sox 59 49 .546   2.5
6th Cleveland Indians 52 51 .505   7.0
7th Toronto Blue Jays 37 69 .349 23.5
West Division
1st Oakland Athletics 64 45 .587    --
2nd Texas Rangers 57 48 .543   5.0
3rd Chicago White Sox 54 52 .509   8.5
4th Kansas City Royals 50 53 .485 11.0
5th California Angels 51 59 .464 13.5
6th Seattle Mariners 44 65 .404 20.0
7th Minnesota Twins 41 68 .376 23.0
National League
Rank Club Wins Losses Win %   GB
East Division
1st St. Louis Cardinals 59 43 .578    --
2nd Montréal Expos 60 48 .556   2.0
3rd Philadelphia Phillies 59 48 .551   2.5
4th Pittsburgh Pirates 46 56 .451 13.0
5th New York Mets 41 62 .398 18.5
6th Chicago Cubs 38 65 .369 21.5
West Division
1st Cincinnati Reds 66 42 .611    --
2nd Los Angeles Dodgers 63 47 .573   4.0
3rd Houston Astros 61 49 .555   6.0
4th San Francisco Giants 56 55 .505 11.5
5th Atlanta Braves 50 56 .472 15.0
6th San Diego Padres 41 69 .373 26.0

PostseasonEdit

  • World Series
    • Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees (4-2)
  • AL Division Series
    • New York Yankees over Milwaukee Brewers (3-2)
    • Oakland Athletics over Kansas City Royals (3-0)
  • NL Division Series
    • Los Angeles Dodgers over Houston Astros (3-2)
    • Montréal Expos over Philadelphia Phillies (3-2)

See alsoEdit

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