For the second time in three years, Major League Baseball will have a delayed Opening Day – but this time it has nothing to do with COVID or safety precautions. MLB owners announced that the first two series of the season would be cancelled after the players and owners failed to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by Tuesday’s “deadline.” A total of 91 games have been thus-far impacted, with each team’s schedule cut down from the standard 162 to around 156, subject to further cuts if a deal can’t be reached soon that allows teams and players to begin spring training.
The cancellation of regular season games marks the first such action due to a labor dispute since the disasterous strike in 1994, one which wiped out that year’s world series and led to a decade of decreased attendance. In 2020, the start of the season was delayed until July due to the pandemic, with a contentious negotiation over the terms of that season between players and owners perhaps foreshadowing this year’s labor impasse.
“I had hoped against hope that I would not have to be in the position of cancelling games,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred in a letter posted to the league’s website. “We worked hard to avoid an outcome that is bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs.”
Owners instituted a lockout of players beginning in December when the previous bargaining agreement expired. The lockout was intended to leverage players to the bargaining table to get a deal done before it impacted the upcoming season – in 1994 the season started without a deal in place, and the players went on strike in August – but that maneuver failed to produce the desired result, as players and owners reportedly remain far apart on the path forward.
Union chief Tony Clark said the players “remain committed to the bargaining process and getting back on the field as soon as possible.”
“Players want to play; everyone knows that,” Clark said. “But the reason we are not playing is simple: 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. I’ve seen more unity over the last few years than at any time in our recent history.”
Statement from the Major League Baseball Players Association: pic.twitter.com/rmpciPsQm4
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) March 1, 2022
With nearly 100 games wiped out, consumers who purchased speculative tickets from the league for the opening series games will now need to find out what their options are regarding those tickets. Speculative tickets remain on sale for the 2022 season, despite the clubs having no agreement with the players to show up and no certainty that they will happen, particularly for the early games. It is not clear when the two sides will return to the bargaining table, having just failed to reach a deal at a marathon series of meetings over the past week.
“We are parepared to continue negotiations,” Manfred wrote in his letter. “We have been informed that the MLBPA is headed back to New York meaning that no agreement is possible until at least Thursday. Currently, camps could not meaningfully operate until at least March 8, leaving only 23 days before scheduled Opening Day.”
“The Clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible,” he concluded. “To that end, we want to bargain and we want a deal with the Players Association as quickly as possible.”