Major League Baseball made official on Friday what has been obvious for some time, delaying the start of spring training, with no labor agreement yet in place.
Pitchers and catchers were set to report to major league camps in Arizona and Florida this week, but with players on 40-man rosters locked out, that didn’t happen.
Spring training games were scheduled to begin on February 26, with the Dodgers set to open Cactus League play in Mesa against the Cubs. But now, the earliest start date for spring games is one week later, on March 5.
The statement from Major League Baseball:
“We regret that, without a collective bargaining agreement in place, we must postpone the start of Spring Training games until no earlier than Saturday, March 5th. All 30 Clubs are unified in their strong desire to bring players back to the field and fans back to the stands. The Clubs have adopted a uniform policy that provides an option for full refunds for fans who have purchased tickets from the Clubs to any Spring Training games that are not taking place. We are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to each side. On Monday, members of the owners’ bargaining committee will join an in-person meeting with the Players Association and remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard towards starting the season on time.”
The owners are the ones locking out the players, so understandably, the MLBPA took issue with the league’s statement.
“MLB announced today that it ‘must’ postpone the start of spring training games. This is false,” said the players association. “Nothing requires the league to delay the start of spring training, much like nothing required the league’s decision to implement the lockout in the first place. Despite these decisions by the league, Players remain committed to the negotiating process.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred, who on December 2 said “we hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time,” has stewarded the owners to make all of two formal offers in 79 days since.
In between the two offers from owners, the league stalled negotiations, asking for federal mediation help on February 3. The request was denied by the players association, saying in a statement, “Two months after implementing their lockout, and just two days after committing to Players that a counterproposal would be made, the owners refused to make a counter, and instead requested mediation.”
Manfred spoke with reporters on February 10 after owners meetings in Orlando.
“I am an optimist, and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule,” Manfred said. “I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry, and we’re committed to making an agreement to avoid that.”
We’re not yet at the point of missing regular season games, though it’s not far off. With opening day scheduled for March 31, and factoring in a four-week spring training plus a few days for a collective bargaining agreement to get ratified, players and owners would need to agree to terms by the end of February at the latest to ensure the regular season starting on time.
To date, major league players and owners have officially met six times to bargain on core economic issues. That figure could double next week with multiple sessions held, per MLB’s statement. It took until the 12th week of the lockout to find this sense of urgency.
The Cactus League in Arizona released a statement, saying, “We are extremely disappointed that the 2022 Cactus League season will not begin as scheduled.”