Major League Baseball’s opening day is once again a moving target. This time, however, it’s not because of COVID-19.
MLB has canceled the first two series of the 2022 season, including opening day, because team owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) failed to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) by Tuesday’s MLB-imposed deadline. After a marathon nine straight days of talks, the MLBPA unanimously rejected the owners’ latest offer on the employment contract on March 1.
The Cincinnati Reds originally had been scheduled to open the season at Great American Ball Park with a game against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, March 31. Cancelled games will not be made up, and players won’t be paid for those missed games, MLB said Tuesday. The league’s 30 teams each will now play 156 games at most, and that’s only if owners and MLBPA can come to an agreement soon to avoid more cancellations. If an agreement is reached, the Reds’ season would start with the series against the Atlanta Braves on April 7.
Per a release from the Reds, fans with the original March 31 opening day tickets can use those tickets for the first home game of the 2022 season, whenever it happens to start (essentially the new opening day). Those with tickets to Reds games April 2-6 will receive a credit that can be applied toward future home games. Fans also may request a refund for any March 31-April 6 games.
MLB has been in hibernation since December, when team owners forced a lockout after the old five-year CBA expired. During a lockout, free agency is frozen, players can’t use team facilities and practices or games go unplayed. Depending on how long the current stoppage lasts, what happens this year could affect free agency eligibility for certain players or cause other issues next season, as well.
This has been the first work stoppage since the 1994-1995 players’ strike, which doomed the 1994 World Series. It is the ninth stoppage ever and just the fifth that has cancelled regular-season games.
At issue: players’ salaries, league revenue split, bonus pools, service time and financial treatment of younger players.
Upon declining the franchise owners’ offer on March 1, the MLBPA released this statement:
Rob Manfred and MLB’s owners have cancelled the start of the season. Players and fans around the world who love baseball are disgusted, but sadly not surprised.
From the beginning of these negotiations, Players’ objectives have been consistent—to promote competition, provide fair compensation for young Players, and to uphold the integrity of our market system. Against the backdrop of growing revenues and record profits, we are seeking 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 our Player fraternity. As in the past, this effort will fail. We are united and committed to negotiating a fair deal that will improve the sport for Players, fans and everyone who loves our game.
Likewise, MLB commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. published a statement on March 1, reading in part:
I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort on the part of either party. The Players came here for nine days, worked hard and tried to make a deal. I appreciate their effort.
Our committee of Club representatives committed to the process, offered compromise after compromise, and hung in past the deadline to exhaust all efforts to reach an agreement.
So far, we have failed to achieve our mutual goal of a fair deal. The unfortunate thing is that the agreement we have offered has huge benefits for fans and players.
Both sides may continue to negotiate, and Manfred has the power to lift the lockout and operate the league without a CBA at any time.
The lockout comes after the 2021 and 2020 seasons that were either shortened, capacity-reduced or otherwise altered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cincinnati Reds went 83-79 during the 2021 regular season and missed out on post-season action with only a few games to spare.
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