Major League Baseball announced Friday that its spring practice games won’t begin until at least March 5. The delay in starting spring training was a foregone conclusion amid the ongoing labor struggle between the league and the players’ union, but today’s announcement makes the delay now. official schedule.
“We regret that without a collective bargaining agreement, we must postpone the start of our Spring Training matches to no later than Saturday, March 5,” the MLB said in a statement. “All 30 clubs are united in their strong desire to get players on the field and fans back in the stands. The clubs have adopted a uniform policy that provides an option for a full refund to fans who have purchased tickets from clubs to any of the spring training games that are not taking place.”
There is no clear timetable for when the two sides might reach a solution. Progress of any kind was lacking up until this point, as yesterday’s meeting between the MLB and MLBPA reportedly lasted only 15 minutes. In a statement today, the Association confirmed that the parties will return to the negotiating table on Monday and expect to hold daily negotiations throughout the week.
“We are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to each side,” an MLB statement read. “On Monday, members of the owners’ negotiating committee will join a personal meeting with the players’ union and will be staying each day for the next week to negotiate and work hard to get the season started on time.”
Daily meetings between the two sides next week will be the closest thing to the state of urgency on display since the lockdown was implemented on December 2. Commissioner Rob Manfred described the shutdown as a way to “start negotiations”, but the league then waited more than six weeks to send a counter-offer to the union. In total, since the lockdown was implemented more than 11 weeks ago, the parties have held six in-person meetings. Meeting on a daily basis next week nearly doubles that total.
Naturally, fans rightly expressed great frustration at the lack of progress, and perhaps most confusingly, at the lack of actual negotiations between the two parties. The delay in the start of the spring schedule is the clearest indication yet of a legitimate possibility that regular season matches will be missed by the row. Manfred last week described the possibility of losing regular season games as a “disastrous outcome for the industry” before expressing optimism that opening day will take place on March 31, as scheduled.
Manfred added that the league would “ideally” want four weeks of spring training, although the chances of that appear slim. A deal is likely to be reached sometime next week, which would give teams and players a week (or a little more) to report back to camp and prepare for matches starting on or around the March 5 date mentioned in today’s announcement. Even this would leave clubs with little shyness for four weeks of exhibition games, but the March 5 kick-off for the Cactus League and Grapefruit League would ultimately “only” result in nearly a week of missed spring competitions. The Spring Training Games were scheduled to begin on February 26. Bombers and hunting were due to begin reporting to the camp this week.
The MLBPA issued the following statement in response to the league’s announcement:
The MLB announced today that the start of the Spring Training Games “must” be postponed. this is not true. Nothing requires the league to delay the start of spring training, as anything that requires the league’s decision to implement the shutdown in the first place. Despite these league decisions, the players remain committed to the negotiation process.”
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