Major League Baseball (MLB) is postponing its March 31 Opening Day and canceling the first two series of regular season games, Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday.
The decision comes after team representatives and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) could not reach a deal on a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA determines players’ terms and conditions of employment.
“We worked hard to avoid an outcome that’s bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs,” Manfred told reporters. “I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party.”
Manfred said that with representatives of the players union headed to New York, there is no possibility of an agreement until Thursday, at the earliest. That meant training camps could not meaningfully operate until March 8. The league has said players would need four weeks of Spring Training before the regular season could begin.
“The unfortunate thing, maybe the most unfortunate thing, is that (proposed) agreement, the one we’ve offered to our players, offered huge benefits for our fans and for our players,” he said.
The players’ union said in a statement that players – and fans – 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,” the union statement reads. “Against the backdrop of growing revenues and record profits, we are seeking nothing more than a fair agreement.”
The union said the owners have been trying to break their players’ fraternity and 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,” the union said.
The commissioner said games were canceled and not postponed because it is not feasible to reschedule interleague games. Manfred also said that players will not be paid for canceled games.
Both sides were at the negotiating table in Jupiter, Florida, for more than 16 hours on Monday which stretched into the early Tuesday morning hours, per MLB.com. The two sides met again later Tuesday.
The league locked out the players on December 2, preventing them from using team facilities and keeping free agents from signing new contracts. The work stoppage stems from disagreements over how to divide up an estimated $11 billion in annual revenue.
Owners say they have been battered by the decline of in-person attendance due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they have pushed to sign a new CBA similar to the most recent one.
Players, meanwhile, have seen their salaries decline in recent years, particularly for non-star players. The union has pushed to change the league’s restrictive rules around free agency and cut down on financial penalties for teams that spend heavily.
Spring Training and the exhibition games schedule had already been pushed back and canceled through March 7. Last month, Manfred said missing games would be a “disastrous outcome” for baseball.
CNN’s Kevin Dotson, Jill Martin and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.