JUPITER, Fla. — Major League Baseball canceled Opening Day of the 2022 season, and Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Tuesday that the sport will miss regular-season games due to a labor dispute for the first time in 27 years after festering lockout negotiations collapsed hours before the deadline imposed by the owners.
Manfred said he will cancel the first two series of the season that was scheduled to start on March 31, reducing the schedule from 162 games to probably 156 games at most. Manfred said the league and the union have made no plans for future negotiations. Players will not be paid for lost games.
“My greatest hope is that we reach an agreement quickly,” Manfred said. “I’m really disappointed that we haven’t come to an agreement.”
Union boss Tony Clark, speaking at a news conference later Tuesday, said the players “remain committed to the negotiation process and to getting back on the field as soon as possible.”
“The players want to play, everyone knows that. But the reason we don’t play is simple: the lockout is the ultimate economic weapon. In a $10 billion industry, the owners have made a conscious decision to use this weapon against the biggest asset the players have. But the group won’t be intimidated. I’ve seen more unity in recent years than at any time in our recent history,” Clark said. “The work stoppage was imposed by MLB, the deadline for negotiations was set by MLB. This is a sad day for baseball.”
After the sides made progress during 13 negotiating sessions over 16½ hours on Monday, the league sent the players’ union a “best and final offer” on Tuesday for the ninth straight day of negotiations.
The players rejected that offer, setting the stage for MLB to make good on its threat to cancel Opening Day.
“Today was not a particularly productive day,” Manfred said.
In a statement, the union said they are “not surprised” by the result.
“Rob Manfred and the owners of MLB have canceled the start of the season. Players and fans around the world who love baseball are upset, but sadly not surprised,” the MLBPA said in a statement.
“Since the beginning of this negotiation, the Players’ goals have been consistent: to promote competition, provide fair compensation for young Players, and uphold the integrity of our market system. In the context of growing revenues and record profits, no we seek nothing more than a fair agreement.
“What Rob Manfred characterized as a ‘defensive lockout’ is, in fact, the culmination of a decades-long attempt by owners to break up our fraternity of players. As in the past, this effort will fail. We are united and committed.” to negotiate a fair deal that will improve the game for the players, the fans and everyone who loves our game.”
At 5:10 p.m., Manfred issued a statement that many fans feared: Nothing will be done on Opening Day, normally a springtime standard of renewal for fans across the country and some in Canada as well.
The ninth work stoppage in baseball history will be the fourth causing the cancellation of regular season games, leaving Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium as quiet next month as Joker Marchant Stadium and Camelback Park have been during the third. consecutive interrupted spring training. .
“The concerns of our fans are at the top of our list of considerations,” Manfred said.
The stoppage, in its 90th day, will plunge a sport reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and plagued by numerous on-field issues into a self-inflicted pause over the inability of players and owners to break up a $10 billion industry. By losing regular-season games, scrutiny will fall even more intensely on Manfred, the commissioner since January 2015, and Tony Clark, the former All-Star first baseman who became a union leader when Michael Weiner died in November 2013.
“Manfred has to go,” Chicago Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman tweeted.
Previous walkouts have been based on issues such as the salary cap, free agent compensation and pensions. This is practically and solely for money.
This fight was years in the making, with players angry that payrolls were down 4% from 2015 to last year, many teams shedding a portion of high-priced veteran officials in favor of lower-priced youngsters, and some clubs giving up. . in competing in the short term to better position itself for the coming years.
The sport will change with its second shortened season in three years. The 2020 schedule was shortened from 162 games to 60 due to the pandemic, a decision that players filed a complaint over and are still litigating. The interruption will create another problem if 15 days of the season are cut: Stars like Shohei Ohtani, Pete Alonso, Jake Cronenworth and Jonathan India would be delayed another year to reach free agency.
Players would lose $20.5 million in salary for each day of the season that is canceled, according to a study by The Associated Press, and the 30 teams would lose large sums that are harder to pin down. Members of the union’s executive subcommittee stand to lose the most, with Max Scherzer losing $232,975 for each regular-season day lost and Gerrit Cole losing $193,548.
Scherzer and free-agent reliever Andrew Miller were present for the talks. Both stopped to sign autographs for fans as they left Roger Dean Stadium, the vacant spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins where negotiations have been taking place since the start of last week.
The first 86 games of the 1973 season were canceled by a strike over pension negotiations, the 1981 season was fractured by a 50-day midseason strike over free agency compensation rules that canceled 713 games and a strike that began in August 1994 over management’s attempt to obtain a salary cap canceled the last 669 games and caused a three-week delay of the 1995 season, when schedules were cut from 162 games to 144.
Players and owners entered the deadline far apart on many key and unresolved issues. The most contentious proposals involve luxury tax thresholds and rates, the size of a new pre-arbitration player bonus pool, minimum wages, salary arbitration eligibility and the union’s desire to change the club’s revenue-sharing formula. .
Although the differences had narrowed in the last few days, the sides remained apart, and the distance depended on the point of view.
MLB has proposed raising the luxury tax threshold from $210 million to $220 million in each of the next three seasons, $224 million in 2025 and $230 in 2026. Players have asked for $238 million this year, $244 million in 2023, $250 million in 2024 , $256 million in 2025 and $263 in 2026.
MLB has proposed $25 million annually for a new pre-arbitration player bonus fund, and the union has dropped from $115 million to $85 million for this year, with annual increases of $5 million.
The league also raised its proposed minimum salary from $675,000 to $700,000, raising $10,000 per year. Those numbers are based on an increase to 12 postseason teams and the addition of five lottery slots in the draft.
Information from Jesse Rogers of ESPN and The Associated Press was used in this report.