MLB CBA Rumors: Players Association Rejected Automated Strike Zone

Major League Baseball and the Players Association (MLBPA) are ‘deadlocked’ in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) more than three months into the lockout.

While the financial side of the deal remains the largest hurdle to clear, the two sides also have potential rule changes to work out. They have already agreed to the universal designated hitter and a Draft lottery, while an expanded postseason looks likely.

MLB also asked the players to agree to a pitch clock, larger bases, restricting shifts and an automated strike zone. Pending other matters getting resolved, the union is said to be open to some of those changes for 2023.

However, the robotic strike zone was not among that, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic:

The players agreed to it in three areas that MLB wanted — the pitch clock, larger bases, and restrictions on the defensive shift — but not for the implementation of an automated strike zone, which MLB also sought.

MLB has been testing the Automated Ball and Strike system (ABS) since a 2019 agreement with the Atlantic League. They also have carried out experimenting with it in the Arizona Fall League and lower levels of Minor League Baseball.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said the system, which is often referred to as robot umpires despite being a camera-based system, will end up being more accurate than human umpires and help remove controversy from the game.

The league is also going to begin testing the balls and strikes system in Triple-A, the Minor Leagues highest level, as they prepare to make the potential change in MLB in the future.

Can MLB still implement robot umpires?

The Umpires Association has already agreed to cooperate with MLB to help develop, test and implement the ABS system as part of their most recent labor contract in 2019, but the league will also need to get the players on board with the change.

MLB and the MLBPA could wait to implement the system when it is ready and reaches a certain accuracy threshold in their testing.

However, if they can’t agree on this issue, Manfred does have the power to unilaterally implement new rules. Though, he has usually tried to get the union on board with changes.

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