3:23 pm: The union’s player leaders voted unanimously to decline the league’s offer, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (Twitter link). A person associated with the MLBPA told Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press, “We are done. This was always (the league’s) plan.” That’s in line with other allegations by those on the players’ side who believe the league exaggerated the extent of the progress made last night in order to frame today’s lack of agreement as the fault of the union.
3:17 pm: Major League Baseball made its “best and final” offer before their imposed 5:00 pm EST deadline to avoid game cancelations. The union is planning to reject that proposal, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (on Twitter). Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet hear from a source involved with negotiations that talks are “over.”
For fans, it marks a disheartening end to the past week and a half of daily negotiations. Those proved last-ditch efforts to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement before the league’s self-imposed deadline (originally yesterday at midnight, later delayed to 5:00 pm today) for a CBA to be in place to avoid the cancelation of regular season games. That’s all but a certainty now, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the league is expected to formally announce a delayed start to the regular season upon receiving the union’s official declination.
Throughout the lockout, MLB has maintained that canceled games would not be made up. That’s likely to mean lost game checks for players; the union has previously said that in that event, they’d respond by refusing to agree to an expanded playoff field for the 2022 season. Postseason expansion — from which MLB would stand to benefit financially — has been a goal of the league’s throughout negotiations, and the parties had reportedly decided to proceed with a potential 12-team format last night.
That decision, as with everything else discussed in collective bargaining to date, is up in the air after today’s developments. Commissioner Rob Manfred is scheduled to speak with reporters in Jupiter at 5:00 pm EST. He seems likely to announce a delay to the start of the season at that point, marking the first time since the 1994-95 player strike that regular season games would be lost due to an official work stoppage (although one could argue that the contentious run-up before implementation of the shortened 2020 schedule served as something of an unofficial lockout).
Manfred has previously called the possibility of lost regular season games “a disastrous outcome for the industry.” Many fans would no doubt agree with that characterization, but the league has apparently reached that point. Given the response to today’s discussions from those on the players’ side, some may question whether the commissioner and the league would genuinely consider today’s outcome “disastrous.” The league, after all, instituted the lockout — ostensibly as a means of kickstarting negotiations — but didn’t make a formal proposal for over a month during its early stages. MLB could lift the lockout at any point and proceed under the terms of the 2016-21 CBA, but there’s no chance they’ll do so.
The league suggested in talks with the union yesterday they’re willing to scrap a month’s worth of regular season play. How many games will be canceled remains to be seen, but the mere loss of any contests will surely drive away some fans frustrated with the entirety of the work stoppage. It’s also not clear what the next steps will be in terms of a resolution, as the parties are no longer expected to continue to bargain on a daily basis.