Spring training games canceled until March 8

Major League Baseball previously announced that all spring training games through March 4 had been canceled. As meetings continued to try to reach a new collective bargaining agreement while owners lock players out, MLB announced that all games through March 8 will now be canceled. as first reported by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.

It’s not too surprising given that every day the owners keep players locked out and unable to show up for work, it’s another day at the back that also needs to be pushed back. Of course, this is all happening because the owners instituted a lockout when they didn’t have to, but chose to do so in order to try to create leverage in the negotiations between the two parts. All sports organizations have adopted this policy since 1994 due to concerns that players would try to use a potential mid-season strike as a point of leverage.

Although MLBPA representation, along with a handful of players met with MLB ownership representatives and a handful of owners, there was not much movement. On Friday, it seemed like much of the talks revolved around the lottery project. Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported that MLB wanted to tie changes in the draft to expanding the playoffs to 14 teams.

Players believe that creating a draft lottery for the top 7-8 will make tanking less likely, so they are trying to get changes to how the top of the draft is determined. The owners seem to be okay, at least somewhat, with allowing this to happen. But if they try to get that as a big way to get a 14-team playoff, it’s probably going to be a very tough sell. Allowing 14 teams to make the playoffs instead of the current 10 means huge amounts of extra TV money (and a solid amount of gate money) for baseball owners. This is probably the biggest token players have to offer in negotiations and the changes to the draft are relatively small compared to things like raising the minimum wage, the amount of the pre-arbitration pool or the threshold of the luxury tax.

Major League Baseball said if a deal isn’t reached by February 28, which is Monday for those who don’t have a close schedule, then regular season games will begin to be canceled and that they will not be caught. This is an important element in these negotiations. Players don’t get paid during spring training, so they really don’t start to feel any financial “pressure” until regular season games happen. But the players also said that if they weren’t paid for a full season, they would retire all extended playoffs for at least the 2022 season – they offered a 12-team playoff extension in negotiations (the owners request 14 teams indicated above).

The big problem could be the wording “paid for a full season” instead of “playing a full season”. It may have been just the wording rather than the intent, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for if and when regular season games start getting canceled. I say “when” because if we’re three days away from “the deadline” and the bigger issues apparently haven’t even been discussed on Friday and the two sides are still pretty far apart on those issues.

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Evelyn C. Tobin