MLB Cancels First Two Series Of Regular Season

Image credit: (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

7:56 pm ET: This story has been updated with additional information

For the first time in 27 years, Major League Baseball games will be canceled due to a work stoppage.

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Tuesday that the first two series of the regular season have been canceled after the league and MLB Players Association were unable to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Negotiators from MLB and the MLBPA met and exchanged proposals over the last nine days in Jupiter, Fla. to try and end the current lockout, but failed to come to an agreement by the league’s self-imposed deadline of 5 p.m. ET.

Opening Day, previously scheduled for March 31, will now take place no earlier than April 7.

“I had hoped against hope that I would not have to have this particular press conference in which I am going to cancel some regular season games,” Manfred said. “We worked hard to avoid an outcome that’s bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs.”

The league imposed a lockout on Dec. 2 following the expiration of the previous CBA. At the time, Manfred said in a statement, “We believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.”

The league did not make its first proposal to the union until 43 days after instituting the lockout. Proposals were periodically exchanged over the next six weeks before ramping up in recent days in Jupiter, with the two sides negotiating until 2 a.m. Tuesday before reconvening later in the morning. Negotiations ended without an agreement shortly before the league’s 5 p.m. deadline.

“From day one, we’ve been committed to the process and committed to having the discussions that needed to be had in order to find common ground on a fair agreement,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said. “That doesn’t change. They set a deadline. We had a deadline at the end of the CBA. They set a deadline here.

“We’re willing to stay here and have a conversation tomorrow. We’re willing to fly back to New York. We’re willing to go wherever we need to go to get back in the room and continue the dialogue that has begun, that began a long time ago, and that had some progress over the course of the last few days against the deadline that they set.” 


MLB’s latest proposal included a $700,000 minimum salary, a $30 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players who reach certain performance benchmarks and a competitive balance tax threshold of $220 million for the next three seasons, with increases to $224 million and $230 million in the final two years of the agreement.

The union’s most recent proposal contained a $725,000 minimum salary, an $85 million bonus pool for pre-arbitration players that would increase by $5 million each year and a competitive tax threshold of $238 million that would increase by at least $6 million each of the following four seasons.

Getting younger, pre-arbitration players paid earlier and raising the competitive balance tax threshold have been two primary objectives of the union during negotiations. 

Players with less than three years of service time made up more than 63% of all players to take the field in 2019, the last year complete figures are available, but received less than 10% of player pay, as noted by The Score’s Travis Sawchik.

As a pre-arbitration player, Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger made $605,000 the year he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2019. Mets first baseman Pete Alonso hit a rookie-record 53 home runs that season but made more money winning the Home Run Derby ($1 million) than he did in salary ($555,000).

“Those young guys are the guys who have their values perhaps the most suppressed (of) any players,” MLBPA chief negotiator Bruce Meyer said. “Those are guys who are under control of the teams, those are guys who don’t have access to free agency, pre-arb guys obviously don’t have access to salary arb. So those guys are providing enormous economic benefits to the teams, the economic surpluses to the teams. And so … one of our main priorities is to get those guys paid more and the simple answer is, we just don’t think that the league’s proposal was enough, was fair, given the background of the leagues revenues.”

The competitive balance tax was updated in the last CBA to include more stringent penalties for teams that go over it. The amount of the competitive balance tax threshold rose just 11% from $189 million in 2015 to $210 million in 2021. League revenues rose more than 30% in that same time.

Only two teams, the Dodgers and Padres, went over the CBT threshold in 2021. No more than three teams have exceeded the CBT in any season since it was last adjusted after the 2016 season.

“We look at the competitive balance tax as a breakaway spending mechanism,” said Mets righthander Max Scherzer, a member of the union’s executive subcommittee. “That’s how this thing was originally negotiated. And when you look at the history of baseball here and our labor, we’re not seeing that function as breakaway spending. We’re seeing it act as a salary cap, and no other way can be shown, point blank and simple, than the San Diego Padres having a higher payroll than New York Yankees.” 


In addition to the primary topics of discussion, Manfred said MLB’s proposal included a draft lottery, an international draft and a procedural adjustment that would allow the commissioner to more quickly implement rules changes such as the pitch timer and the elimination of the shift, rules Manfred described as “sorely needed.”

The negotiations come against the backdrop of rising league revenues and decreasing player pay in recent years. Gross league revenues rose 30% from $8.2 billion in 2015 to $10.7 billion in 2019, the last year figures are available, according to Forbes. Player payroll, meanwhile, fell nearly 5% from a record-$4.25 billion in 2017 to $4.05 billion in 2021, according to the Associated Press. The median player salary fell 30% from $1.65 million in 2015 to $1.15 million in 2021.

The lockout has lasted 90 days and is already the second-longest work stoppage in baseball history. No new bargaining sessions are currently scheduled.

“The clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible,” Manfred said. “To that end, we want to bargain and we want an agreement with the Players Association as quickly as possible.”

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