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Dysfunctional, unfortunate, unnecessary: Inside the labor fight that threatens MLB's future

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The key factors in Major League Baseball's CBA negotiations (2:19)

Tim Kurkjian and Jeff Passan discuss the possibility of a labor stoppage in baseball before the 2022 season. (2:19)

Editor's note: From rising strikeout totals and unwritten rules debates to connecting with a new generation of fans and a looming labor battle, baseball is at a crossroads. As MLB faces these challenges, we are embarking on a season-long look at The State of Baseball, examining the storylines that will determine how the game looks in 2021 and far beyond.

ASK THOSE IN positions of power around Major League Baseball how they would characterize the state of labor relations in the sport, and the answers connote chaos.

"Dysfunctional."

"Unfortunate."

"Complicated."

"Tense."

"Unnecessary."

And yet for all of the pessimism, the invocation of doomsday rhetoric that portends the sort of labor strife that for decades cleaved the sport, there is a counterintuitive consensus beginning to form: that despite the issues between MLB and the MLB Players Association, the mud-slinging and posturing and failed negotiations, a work stoppage that ends with lost games feels less and less likely.