It’s been a long, arduous road since Major League Baseball first locked out the players in early December. At nigh-countless times, it felt like the owners and the union were so exhausted with each other that Opening Day was sure to be delayed and the only question was for how long. There was some hope very late on Monday night that an agreement was possible with talks about a 12-team playoff in tentative agreement, but it now seems like it was all an ownership-induced leak with optimism and public pressure being the designed goal. MLB pushing its own deadline from midnight to 5pm today turned out to be a stay of execution.
The 2022 MLB season will be officially delayed and Opening Day has been cancelled. The owners submitted a final offer around 2:30pm today that barely changed the contentious CBT thresholds — not even budging at all in the first three years — and didn’t come even close to meeting the players halfway on the new pre-arbitration bonus pool.
MLB’s best, final offer before pulling down games, per MLBPA official:— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 1, 2022
• Pre-arb bonus pool of $30 million, up $5 million from before
• No change on CBT thresholds (220/220/220/224/230)
• Minimum salary starting at $700k, going to $740k over course of deal. PA starts $725k
Well, the consequences are here. It didn’t take long for the word to come out that the player would be rejecting this last bid, and soon after, MLB followed up on its threat. Opening Day has been axed, as have the first two series of the regular season. In the event of a miraculous turn in negotiations, the Yankees would begin play on April 7th at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox, but I wouldn’t hold my breath about that. We’re now heading into the great unknown.
So where do we go from here?
Players will work out in their own camps and while labor talks could continue at any point (MLBPA leadership will be back in New York on Thursday), the MLB owners surely have a “preferred” total of games that they would be willing to miss in 2022. It could be a month, or it could be more. So we might just be stuck with a vague, ever-rising number of cancellations for now. Alternatively, MLB could try to get a National Labor Relations Board arbitrator to declare an impasse. The NLRB would need to determine if the last offer was made in good faith, and those courtroom proceedings could drag on quite a long time.
It’s hard to put into words how absolutely frustrating this entire process has been to watch as a fan. It’s about as defeated as I’ve ever felt with the game. Throughout this entire process, it hasn’t seemed like the commissioner and owners — the people who are supposed to be preserving the future of this sport, mind you — have been actually interested in beginning the 2022 season on time. The sport is in serious trouble for oh-so-many reasons thanks to their disingenuous-at-best behavior.
My fellow editor, Ryan, summed up MLB’s tactics quite nicely in a Twitter thread:
You don't make pointlessly-redundant counter-offers when you do finally start discussions if you're actually negotiating, you don't declare critical parts of the labor agreement nonstarters while demanding maximum playoff expansions if you're actually interested in negotiating— Ryan Pavich (@RyanPavich) March 1, 2022
Remember, MLB initiated its lockout of the players back on December 2nd. They called it a “defensive” lockout, but then went a full 43 days before making a counterproposal of the MLBPA’s last offer. That squandered a month and a half of potential negotiations, and it wasn’t until this past week that they agreed to meet with the union on every single day. Even then, talks seemed to stall on far-from-pivotal points that did nothing to meaningfully address the players’ understandable concerns about more equitable compensation for its youngest members or the number of teams choosing to be noncompetitive.
On Saturday, the MLBPA even went so far as to cut down several of its asks in an attempt to better negotiate with the owners. Ownership would still have been getting an easy revenue win on their side. But rather than making progress with its own Monday deadline set, the owners rejected it almost outright; their counterproposal was a slap in the face, offering only $1 million more on one year of CBT thresholds. It almost pushed the players away from the bargaining table entirely.
This should be the chart that everyone keeps in mind when discussing the negotiations:
Ownership refuses to keep up with mere inflation in compensating the actual people who market their product. The players are not asking for the moon, and yet that’s still not enough for the Scrooge McDucks of the world. For as much as ownership likes to talk about some overall figures increasing in their recent proposals, they’re not actually commensurate raises. And as Sean Forman of Baseball Reference noted, they really aren’t saving themselves that much by refusing to increase salaries accordingly:
I keep plugging $50k x 25 into my calculator because I can't believe the owners are quibbling over $1.25m / team and I assume I must be off by a zero somewhere. https://t.co/Et1prT8sdW— Sean Forman (@sean_forman) March 1, 2022
They’d be getting extra revenue from expanded playoffs too (playoffs that even then, they tried to push to an extravagant number), and again, that’s still not enough.
It also shouldn’t be forgotten that these deadlines were solely created by MLB owners without union consultation. February 28th was initially the latest that MLB said they would continue negotiating while keeping Opening Day on the schedule. It was a deadline of their own making; as a reminder, MLB announced on July 6, 2020 that its pandemic/bargaining-delayed Opening Day would be July 23rd. The MLBPA never indicated that they needed the whole March slate to get ready, but, well, MLB said the deadline was the deadline. By the early afternoon of that day, reports were already out confirming that MLB was OK with letting April games go by the wayside, and that really should’ve signaled to all what was on the horizon.
So here we are. The Yankees were scheduled to begin play on March 31st against the Rangers in Texas. That will not happen, and neither that nor any of the other cancelled games in the first two series will be made up. At this point, whenever we’ll have baseball again just seems to depend on which exact fraction of the standard 162-game schedule is financially acceptable to owners (if they even deign to start actually negotiating again). Lovely.
The past 24 hours feel like nothing more than a master class by the league in trying to act like they cared about getting a deal done in time to save Opening Day.— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) March 1, 2022
There might not be any Major League Baseball to follow in the immediate future, but we at Pinstripe Alley will continue to do our best to provide compelling daily programming. There will still be prospect news and minor league action to discuss, and I’m sure the labor unrest won’t be fully quiet. Maybe something good will happen and we’ll get a sense of when Opening Day might actually come around, if it does at all.
Hope is all we currently have going for us, but unfortunately, it’s the hope that billionaire owners learn a lesson about screwing over a workforce. That doesn’t always come to pass, and so for now, we must all be crushed by their collective boot.