Just hours after announcing that more games would have to be cancelled, Major League Baseball and its players finally came to a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement late Thursday, saving the full 162 game schedule. The deal ended a 99-day lockout by the owners, and paved the way for Opening Day to take place on April 9.
“I am genuinely thrilled to be able to say that Major League Baseball is back and we’re going to play 162 games,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “I do want to start by apologizing to our fans. I know that the last few months have been difficult. There’s a lot of uncertainty, at a point in time when there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world. [It’s] sort of the way the process of collective bargaining works sometimes, but I do apologize for it.”
Among other changes, the deal brings the designated hitter to the National League, and expands the playoffs to a 12-team format for the first time. Details on the deal are available at the MLB website, linked above.
“Our union endured the second-longest work stoppage in its history to achieve significant progress in key areas that will improve not just current players’ rights and benefits, but those of generations to come,” MLB Players Union Executive Director Tony Clark said. “Players remained engaged and unified from beginning to end, and in the process reenergized our fraternity.”
Prior to the deal being reached, Manfred had announced plans to cancel the third and fourth series of the upcoming season and the push back of Opening Day to April 16. But with the agreement, all four series which had been wiped out by the lockout will be rescheduled. The mandatory Spring Training report date for all clubs is Sunday. Exhibition games will begin next week, either March 17 or 18.
With the deal, there will likely be a flurry of activity in terms of player transactions in the next few weeks, given that all such deals were on hold due to the lockout. Several high-profile players are free agents in search of a new home for the upcoming season.
It is unclear at this time how the rescheduling of games will impact Opening Day opponents throughout the league – or how teams will deal with shifting tickets purchased for the original Opening Day to the new date/opponent if that is the case. The likely simplest solution would be to simply push back the existing calendar to start on April 9, but that may not be possible given how team travel plans and stadium schedules work.