As expected, following the expiration of MLB’s imposed deadline for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Commissioner Rob Manfred just announced that he will be cancelling at least the first two series of the regular season. More particulars are yet to come, but Manfred indicated that the calendar requires the cancellations. The same calendar that saw the owners make no offers for 43 days after imposing the lockout on December 1.
For the Chicago Cubs, that means the opening series in Cincinnati, and the home opening series against the Cardinals, are now poof. Whether more get cancelled remains to be seen, but can anyone really imagine a deal coming together within the next few days? I suppose I will at least note that Manfred pointed out that the owners did not use the term “best and final,” only “best before the deadline.” He is being careful not to contend that there is an impasse, which triggers a potential labor complaint and court case.
It is deeply cynical to say it, yes, but I also believe it is true: there are at least some owners who are very happy about today’s news. Those owners – I’ll leave it to you to guess what category they fall into – get to save on big player expenses for games that are among their least profitable.
After two seasons disrupted by forces outside their control, the league saw fit this year to take matters into their own hands. It’s impossible to sum up today the damage MLB is doing to its own sport in the long-term by voluntarily cancelling games ESPECIALLY after the pandemic years, and ESPECIALLY given the entertainment landscape. It’ll bear itself out for years and years, and it will be very bad.
Whenever MLB comes back, a load of fans will be happy to watch. I’ll be among them. But you’re an insulated fool if you think there won’t have been massive, massive fan losses at the margins of the sport in the meantime, not to mention the fans you never gave yourself a chance to attract. Penny wise, pound foolish perhaps.
The lockout, which was imposed by the owners three months ago, means that even as we await some kind of eventual agreement or court case, 40-man players still cannot communicate with their teams or participate at their facilities. The MLBPA is organizing a group facility in Arizona, which could help some guys, but obviously it’s not the same. I feel awful, in particular, for the prospects and the younger, not-yet-established players who are now having their careers effed with so thoroughly after the pandemic had its way.
It’s worth remembering that, technically, MLB cannot unilaterally cancel games (and pay) without bargaining taking place. So it is still POSSIBLE that these games get merely postponed, and are made up later. It is MLB’s bargaining position that that will not happen, but it is merely a position. Also, remember that the lockout was not mandatory when the CBA expired – the owners could have instead chosen to let the current CBA stay in place while continuing negotiations (but the league was afraid the players would later strike, and they wanted the control).
The player response pretty well sums it up, I think:
Statement from the Major League Baseball Players Association: pic.twitter.com/rmpciPsQm4
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) March 1, 2022
Meanwhile, it seems impossible to say something more disingenuous today:
“The concerns of our fans are at the very top of our consideration list.” — Rob Manfred, on the day MLB canceled regular-season games, during a league-initiated lockout
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 1, 2022