MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Wednesday announced another wave of regular season cancellations. Opening day has been pushed back until at least April 14, effectively canceling two more series per team. Last week Manfred announced the cancellation of the first two series of the 2022 regular season. The opening day was originally scheduled for March 31.
The cancellations come two days after marathon bargaining sessions between the MLB and the MLB Players Association failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Here is Manfred’s statement on the latest wave of cancellations:
“In a last-ditch effort to preserve the 162-game season, this week we made good faith proposals that addressed the specific concerns expressed by the MLBPA and would have allowed players to return to the field immediately. Clubs have gone to extraordinary lengths to meet the MLBPA’s core demands. On the major economic issues that posed obstacles, the clubs suggested ways to bridge the gaps to maintain a full schedule.Unfortunately, after the second late-night bargaining session in a week, they remained without an agreement.
“Due to the logistical facts of the calendar, two more series have been removed from the schedule, which means that opening day is postponed until April 14. We have worked hard to come to an agreement and offered a fair deal with significant improvements for our players and fans, and I am saddened by the impact this ongoing situation has on our game and everyone who is. Part of it, especially our loyal fans.
“We have the utmost respect for our players and hope that they will eventually choose to accept the fair agreement they have been offered.”
“The owners’ decision to cancel additional games is completely unnecessary,” the MLBPA said in a statement. “After making a sweeping set of proposals to the league earlier this afternoon, and telling them substantive responses were imminent, the players have not yet listened. The players want to play, and we can’t wait to get back on the pitch for the best fans in the world. Our highest priority remains to strike a fair contract. For all players, we will continue negotiations to this end.
The owner-imposed shutdown is approaching its 100th day and the MLB has set another “soft” deadline for the Games to be canceled on Tuesday. The deadline was pushed back to Wednesday after 17 hours of haggling, and while the two sides bridged the gap on some economic matters, the biggest sticking point at the moment is an international draft. MLB wants one and the union is against it.
The running count is four series canceled for each of the 30 teams. Generally, every team plays roughly two series per week throughout the season, so this equates to two weeks off the season. As of Wednesday evening, no further meetings between the MLB and the MLBPA have been scheduled. That could change at any moment, of course.
Here are five notes from the latest round of bargaining and cancellation.
1. Jackie Robinson’s day could be in jeopardy
Perhaps part of the focus here should shift toward Jackie Robinson’s day. This is an event celebrated annually by Major League Baseball in memory of Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947. April 15, 1947 was the opening day of that season and every year on that day, beginning with the 2004 season, MLB celebrates, most recently moving towards every player He wears Robinson’s number 42 (otherwise retired across the league).
April 15th falls on a Friday this year and the date is in a precarious position in the MLB calendar, although there is also the possibility of it marking a triumphant comeback. The first four canceled series bring us to April 14th. If the owners keep the shutdown in place and no deal is reached, the next batch of cancellations will include Jackie Robinson’s Day on the 75th anniversary of his MLB debut.
This would mark the second of three years MLB missed on April 15 commemorating Robinson. In 2020, the season was postponed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Jackie Robinson Day was held on August 28.
2. The international project has now become a sticking point
Over the past 48 hours or so, the international draft has become a hot topic. MLB wants one and has had it for years, and the MLBPA opposes it. “International conscription will kill baseball in the Dominican Republic. It will affect us a lot, because there will be many young people who used to give them the opportunity to get a bonus and it will not be the same as the draft with conscription,” Padres star Fernando Tates Jr. said on Tuesday.
The international draft has been in every MLB proposal since last year and has been rejected by the MLBPA every time, but it came out on top on Wednesday when the league set an ultimatum. The MLB tied the cancellation of the qualifying bid, something the MLBPA wanted, to the international draft and told the federation that it would not oppose its latest proposal unless it chose one of three options:
- Cancel the eligible bid and create an international draft.
- The eligible bid remains without an international draft.
- Cancel the eligible bid and discuss the international draft later.
For the third option, the MLB wanted an international draft to be in place by November 15, 2022, or it would have the ability to fully reopen the collective bargaining agreement after 2024. The federation rejected all three options and proposed instead scrapping the qualifying bid system, then finding it back if not. No draft international agreement by 15 November. MLB did not respond.
. Players outside the US, Canada and Puerto Rico are currently free to sign with any team once they turn 16. Each team is given a specific bonus set to spend on international players each year. It is usually in the range of $4 million to $6 million.
3. Bridging the gaps in basic economic matters
Not all news is bad. Both the MLB and the MLBPA have largely filled in the gaps on several key economic issues this week, the ones that matter most during these talks. Here each side stands for the most important economic elements:
$710,000 in 2022, rising to $770,000 in 2026
$725,000 in 2022 and rise to $780,000 in 2026
Competitive Balance Tax Threshold
210 million dollars
$230 million in 2022 and rising to $242 million in 2026
$232 million in 2022 and rising to $250 million in 2026
Pre-judging rewards pool
$40 million without increases
65 million dollars, an increase of 5 million dollars every year
The proposals for a minimum salary and a competitive credit tax are close enough now that the two sides can reach a consensus once the next offer. The gap with the pre-judging bonus pool is still large, although there is nothing that cannot be resolved. The point is, MLB and MLBPA are getting close to the money, and that wasn’t the case until a week ago. This is progress.
4. It all just got a little more complicated
The calendar says a game of 162 will soon be impossible – the MLB said 162 games could have been played in a deal struck on Wednesday – and last week Manfred said “Our focus is on games that won’t be played, players won’t be paid for.” The federation rejects that idea. , and threatened to withhold an expanded post-season field if players were not paid in full (with canceled games rescheduled).
What this now means is that in addition to all of the collective bargaining issues, the MLB and the MLBPA now have to negotiate salary and service time. You may remember that they bargained for this while stopping the pandemic in 2020 and ultimately couldn’t come to an agreement. Ultimately, the union abandoned the bargaining and allowed Manfred to unilaterally schedule the season at pro rata pay, a one-time authority granted to him in the March Agreement that year.
The number of games played, the amount players are paid for those games, and the schedule itself are all subject to bargaining. Manfred cannot unilaterally perform a shortened season at a prorated fee. The MLB and the MLBPA will have to agree to these terms and that’s another layer of complexity on top of an already complicated negotiation. Bottom line, this is getting more and more messy.
5. We’ll do this again next week (probably)
At this point, it’s fair to assume that MLB will cancel games on a week-by-week basis until a deal is struck. This means that we will likely see what we have seen in the past two weeks – long haggling sessions with proposals and counterproposals – every week going forward. We will hear that one side is optimistic and the other is unreasonable, etc. Everything we have heard over the past two weeks will happen again and again every week until an agreement is reached.
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