Major League Baseball canceled the first week of spring training games through March 4 in the first public acknowledgment of the disruption caused by the lockdown.
Friday’s announcement came with the work stoppage entering its 79th day, and a day after the economy talks between management and the Major League Baseball Players Association lasted just 15 minutes.
Negotiators are expected to resume negotiations on the core economy on Monday, and MLB said members of the homeowners’ bargaining committee will attend the session, only the seventh on issues central to the dispute since the lockdown began Dec. 2. .
Spring training was due to start this week and the show schedule on February 26. There were 16 games scheduled for that day, including World Series champion Atlanta Braves playing in Boston, Florida and the renowned Cleveland Guardians taking on Cincinnati in Arizona.
“We regret that, with no collective agreement in place, we have had to postpone the start of spring training games until Saturday, March 5, at the earliest,” MLB said in a statement. “The 30 clubs are united in their strong desire to bring the players back onto the pitch and the fans back into the stands.”
MLB told the union it believed Feb. 28 was the latest possible date to reach an agreement that would allow for a timely start to the season. The union did not respond to MLB on whether it agreed with that date or whether it thought there was more time.
The players released a statement criticizing management for the shutdown.
“Nothing requires the league to delay the start of spring training, just as nothing required the league’s decision to implement the lockout in the first place,” the union said. “Despite the decisions of the league, the players remain committed to the negotiation process.”
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the lockout decision was made to control the schedule and prevent an end-of-season strike in the absence of a contract, like the lockout at August 1994 which led to the first cancellation of the World Series in nine decades.
This is the third consecutive interrupted spring formation, damaging local tourist economies in Florida and Arizona.
Matches were cut short on March 12, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in Opening Day being postponed from March 26 to July 23 and each team’s schedule being reduced from 162 matches to 60.
While spring training started on time last year, pandemic-related restrictions resulted in capacity limits that reduced attendance.
Negotiations took place at MLB and union offices in New York. The players’ association was discussing the participation of players in the next session.
For the most part, owners and players joined the negotiation through Zoom. Colorado Rockies CEO Dick Monfort, chairman of the owners’ labor policy committee, and free agent reliever Andrew Miller both attended the Jan. 24 session, the first in-person negotiation during the lockout. .
“We are committed to reaching a fair agreement for each party,” MLB said. “Owners’ negotiating committee members will join a face-to-face meeting with the players’ association on Monday and will stay every day for the next week to negotiate and work hard to start the season on time.”
Spring training was scheduled to start on Wednesday.
“The clubs have adopted a uniform policy that provides a full refund option to fans who have purchased tickets from the clubs for all spring training games that are not held,” MLB said.
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