Major League Baseball had previously announced that all spring training games through March 4th had been cancelled. As continued meetings to attempt to come to a new collective bargaining agreement while the owners lock out the players, MLB announced that all games through March 8th would now be cancelled as first reported by Jesse Rogers of ESPN.
This isn’t too surprising given that every day the owners keep the players locked out and unable to show up to work it’s another day on the back end that has to be pushed back, too. Of course all of this is happening because the owners instituted a lockout when they didn’t have to, but opted to do so in order to try and create leverage in negotiations between the two sides. Every sports organization has gone with this policy since 1994 due to the fear that the players would try to use a potential strike in-season as a leverage point.
While the MLBPA representation, as well as a handful of players have met with the MLB ownership representatives and a handful of owners, there hasn’t been much movement. On Friday it seemed that much of the talks revolved around the draft lottery. Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported that MLB wants to tie changes in the draft to expanding the playoffs to 14 teams.
The players believe that creating a draft lottery for the top 7-8 spots will make tanking less likely to happen, so they are trying to get changes in how the top of the draft is determined. The owners seem to be on-board, at least a little bit, in allowing that to happen. But if they are trying to get that as a big way to get a 14-team playoff set up, that’s likely going to be a really tough sell. Allowing 14 teams in the playoffs instead of the current 10 means huge amounts of additional television money (and a solid amount of gate money) to the owners across baseball. It’s likely the biggest chip that the players have to offer up in negotiations and the draft changes are relative small potatoes compared to things like raising the minimum salary, the pre-arbitration pool amount, or the luxury tax threshold.
Major League Baseball has said that if a deal wasn’t reached by February 28th, which is Monday for those with a calendar nowhere near, then regular season games will start to be cancelled and that they will not be made up. That is a big thing in these negotiations. Players aren’t paid during spring training, so they really don’t start to feel any financial “pressure” until regular season games aren’t taking place. But the players also have said that if they aren’t paid for a full season then they will take off any expanded playoffs for at least the 2022 season – they have offered up a 12-team playoff expansion in negotiations (owners are asking for 14 teams at noted above).
The big thing there could be the wording of “paid for a full season” instead of “playing a full season”. Perhaps it was just the wording rather than the intent, but it’s worth keeping an eye on if and when regular season games start getting cancelled. I say “when” because if we’re three days away from “the deadline” and the biggest issues were seemingly not even discussed on Friday and the two sides are still quite far apart on those issues.