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MLB reiterates February 28 deadline to avoid missed games


Representatives for Major League Baseball owners and players met in person for a third straight day in Jupiter, Florida on Wednesday, but under the veneer of progress remains two sides that are far from a deal.

We talked on Tuesday about the timeline of the labor talks (or lack thereof) during the lockout, and what it might take for the regular season to start as scheduled. The end of February seemed like a rough deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement, but on Wednesday owners made crystal clear of their bargaining timeline.

February 28 is Monday, which would mean five more days of bargaining if the two sides work through the weekend.

It’s also quite arbitrary, because the league deciding to start canceling games a month in advance would be a choice, and a punitive one at that if the owners don’t get their way. Just like it was a choice for the league to institute a lockout in the first place.

In reality, both sides could continue negotiating as long as they see fit, and still could even if the lockout was lifted.

“A deadline is a deadline” rings a little hollow from the side that instituted the lockout, then did not make an offer for 43 days.

If this playbook from the owners sounds familiar, it’s because we saw the same glacial pace and feet-dragging from the league in 2020. Seemingly every ownership offer that summer was a different way to say “we’ll pay players about one-third of their salary” until there was only enough time in the calendar for a 60-game regular season.

The huge, and possibly deal-optimistic difference between then and now was the owners in 2020 had little interest in playing games in ballparks with no fans during a pandemic. But now, there are no meaningful restrictions on attendance in any major league cities, so missed games would take money out of the owners’ pockets as well as the players’.

Ronald Blum at the Associated Press reported Wednesday that players would lose $20.5 million in salary for each canceled day of the regular season.

The biggest payoff for the owners in any new CBA would be the expanded postseason, which per the ESPN television contract would provide another extra $100 million annually if there is a new wild card round. Thus far, owners have proposed expanding the playoffs from 10 to 14 teams, while MLBPA offers have reportedly included a 12-team postseason.

The players’ equivalent ultimatum came last week, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.

Owners said they’ll start canceling games if a deal isn’t reached by February 28. The players said, if you want your expanded playoffs, you’ll pay us for an entire season.

The next five days will tell us how badly the owners want an expanded postseason, and if they want a deal at all.