MLB Lockout Day 61: With the First Soft Deadline Arriving, What Are the Other Deadlines?

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MLB Lockout Day 61: With the First Soft Deadline Arriving, What Are the Other Deadlines?

Chicago Cubs

Today is the last day before a kind of deadline, but it’s not one that matters much at this point. February 1 has long been considered a “soft deadline” for getting a new CBA in place: after that, everyone could proceed with a two-week Offseason Part Two, and then Spring Training could proceed as normal. In other words, February 1 was the last “hoped for” date by which we could see a deal done, and keep things mostly normal. Ah, how naive we were back in early December, when some folks thought a deal might come together BEFORE February! I count myself among the foolish at the time, believing that a deal probably would be done by the soft deadline of February 1.

That has, however, seemed impossible for weeks now, and today confirms it: no last-minute deal, and we are officially headed into “at least some stuff is messed up now” territory.

Today, Jeff Passan, Jesse Rogers, and Maury Brown all got into the new timelines we have to consider in trying to suss out just how messed up things are about to be.

While Brown rightly points out that most have agreed two weeks is necessary (at least!) to wrap up all the Offseason Part Two things that need to get done, the ESPN duo suggest that you might be able to squeeze it all into a week, with some overlap on Spring Training, itself (i.e., some of the offseason needs will just have to be taken care of during Spring Training). So *maybe* you could say that February 8 is the new February 1: i.e., the date by which a deal must be done if you want pitchers and catchers reporting on their normal dates. (But, let’s get real: a deal done by February 8 sure seems like a stretch.)

OK, but Spring Training has some fluff. We know this. Could a deal come later than February 8 and you still have a normal Spring Training game schedule (beginning February 26)? It is not realistic to play a game – even an exhibition game – fewer than seven days before everyone is there in Spring Training. So, if you were willing to go with the shortest version of Offseason Part Two (and have much of it overlap with Spring Training), and if you went with the bare minimum pre-games part of Spring Training, then you could theoretically have a deal by February 19 and still play all those fake games.

That range – mid-February – had started to feel to me like the REAL deadline to get a deal done and still have a decent Offseason Part Two, and a decent (but not full) slate of Spring Training games. So while I am not so sure about getting in a full slate of Spring Training games if a deal landed on February 19, I think it would mostly be OK (even if I’d still be pissed about this whole ordeal).

Where things become pretty not OK is if the calendar hits March 1 and there’s still no deal. That’s when your options are to dramatically condense Spring Training – to unsafe degrees, in my and others’ view – or you have to move Opening Day. Neither is a good option, and that means a deal prior to March 1 sure would feel like an absolute necessity if you want to have a chance at a normal, healthy Opening Day.

If you read the latest from Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, though, you’ll come away feeling like having a normal Opening Day is a pipe dream:

To be sure, Rosenthal and Drellich are *mostly* going over the vast differences between the sides’ positions on each key issue, which is something we already know.

But where you leave feeling a bit discouraged is in the framing of the article. It’s basically: hey, if you allowed yourself to start feeling optimism last week just because there were conversations, you should chill on that. The fundamental divide between the owners and players remains quite firm. The owners keeping angling for status quo (for obvious reasons), and the players want to make significant gains after a couple perceived “lost” CBAs. Nothing that’s come up in negotiations so far meaningfully bridges that divide.

I guess we’ll see what this week brings. It won’t be a deal by the final “hoped for” date of February 1 – the date that would’ve kept a normal Spring Training on the table – but maybe there will be enough progress this week to keep a hoped-for normal Opening Day on the table. It’s so much fun to have to hope for a normal Opening Day at the same time the NFL is having one of the most exciting set of playoffs in recent memory, eh?

UPDATE: The next round of talks come tomorrow.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.