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MLB season delayed after labor talks end in stalemate

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Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the league had been forced to delay the start of the regular season after labor talks broke down./AFP
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Mar 02, 2022 - 07:06 AM

MIAMI, UNITED STATES — The start of the Major League Baseball season was delayed on Tuesday after marathon labor talks between team owners and players ended in deadlock.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the league had been left with no choice but to cancel the opening round of fixtures after the stalemate, marking the first time in 27 years regular season games had been lost due to a labor dispute.

“The calendar dictates we’re not going to be able to play the first two series of the regular season and those games are officially cancelled,” Manfred told a press conference in Jupiter, Florida.

The new season had been due to get under way on March 31.

Hopes of an agreement had been raised on Monday after the talks were extended beyond a deadline set by Major League Baseball.

However Tuesday’s last-ditch round of negotiations ended in disagreement, with reports saying the two sides had been unable to come together on the thorny issue of the competitive balance tax (CBT), baseball’s de facto salary cap.

MLB officials had offered an increase in the CBT of $220 million for three years starting in 2022, increasing to $230 million by 2026.

The players lowered their initial demand of $245 million in 2022 to $238 million, rising to $263 million in the final year of the five-year collective bargaining agreement.

The fact that talks had been extended on Monday left MLB officials confident of securing a deal. However a spokesman said Tuesday players had returned to the bargaining table with a “decidedly different tone”.

“We worked hard to avoid an outcome that’s bad for our fans, and bad for our players and bad for our clubs,” Manfred said.

“Our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party.

“The players came here for nine days, they worked hard to try and make a deal and I appreciate their effort.”

‘Disgusted, unsurprised’ 

The Major League Baseball Players Association laid the failure to broker a deal squarely at MLB’s door.

“Players and fans around the world who love baseball are disgusted, but sadly not surprised,” the MLBPA said in a statement.

“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.

“Against the backdrop of growing revenues and record profits, we are seeking nothing more than a fair agreement.”

Manfred however said team owners had offered “compromise after compromise” in an effort to avoid a cancellation of fixtures, noting that owners had offered to raise minimum salaries across the league by $130,000 to $700,000.

“A primary goal of the players association was to increase pay for younger players,” Manfred said. “We agree with and share that goal.”

Manfred said the league had offered to create a $30 million bonus pool for young players, and said two thirds of players would have seen pay increase by around 33%.

Although the 2020 MLB season was shortened due to the pandemic, Tuesday’s cancellation of fixtures marks the first time regular season games have been lost since the 1995 lockout, when 948 games were lost.

Major League Baseball had already delayed the start of pre-season exhibition games, which were originally scheduled to start on February 26.

The league locked out players on December 2 after the previous collective bargaining agreement expired.

At the time MLB commissioner Manfred said the lockout was to increase the sense of urgency in negotiations, although weeks passed before talks finally began on how to split the profits from billions in revenue.

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