The Major League Baseball season will not begin as scheduled as negotiations between the owners and players over a new labor deal broke down Tuesday.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the first two series of the season for all teams were canceled. The season was scheduled to begin on March 31st. With Tuesday’s announcement, the earliest games could be played is April 7th.
It is not known when representatives of the MLB Players Association and ownership will resume talks.
Facing a deadline for the first work stoppage in the sport since the 1994-95 seasons that included wiping out the 1994 World Series, both sides had face-to-face negotiations at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. Only in the last couple of days, however, did the talks intensify, including a marathon session Monday that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday and seemingly built momentum that a deal could be reached without interrupting the season.
That all blew up Tuesday when an offer from the owners shortly before the MLB-imposed 5 p.m. ET deadline was unanimously rejected by the players. Reports started trickling out from an ownership perspective that the players had changed their tone. Players immediately countered that their stance remained the same.
FWIW MLB has pumped to the media last night & today that there’s momentum toward a deal. Now saying the players tone has changed. So if a deal isn’t done today it’s our fault. This isn’t a coincidence. We’ve had the same tone all along. We just want a fair deal/to play ball.
— Alex Wood (@Awood45) March 1, 2022
“I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party,” said Manfred, named by owners as commissioner in 2014. “The players came here for nine days. They worked hard, they tried to make a deal and I appreciate their effort. Our committee of club representatives committed to the process. They offered compromise after compromise and hung in past the deadline to make sure that we exhausted every possibility of reaching an agreement before the cancellation of games.”
Owners imposed a lockout on December 2nd as the previous collective bargaining agreement expired, with Manfred calling it a “defensive lockout.”
“We came to Florida to negotiate for a fair collective bargaining agreement,” MLBA Executive Director Tony Clark said. “Despite meeting daily while here in Florida, there is still work that needs to be done. We are seeking improvements to our CBA because significant improvements are needed. We’ve made no mistake about that fact over the course of the last three or four years based on what we’ve seen on the field and off the field.”
Added Clark: “A lockout is the ultimate economic weapon in a $10 billion industry. The owners have made a conscious decision to use this weapon against the greatest asset they have: the players. But the group won’t be intimidated.”
Taking a Stance
Players had been seeking to recoup what they felt were economic losses from recent CBA negotiations and looking out for those just breaking into the majors, while owners said they had taken financial hits due to the COVID-19 pandemic the last two seasons. In 2020, the season was cut down to 60 games with fans largely not allowed to attend. A full schedule was played in 2021, but turnstiles were limited in the early portion of the season.
The issues that drew the most attention from both sides were the competitive balance threshold, minimum pay, and a pre-arbitration bonus pool. Some progress has been made, but whether that sticks through future negotiations is up for debate. Included in that was expanding the playoffs to 12 teams.
The minor-league schedules, set to begin in April, are unaffected by the breakdown in talks.
Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire