Today an MLB spokesperson, stating “a deadline is a deadline,” announced that regular season games will start being cancelled if there is no deal made on a new CBA by 28 Feb.
The MLBPA, in turn, rejected the notion and stated games could be made up with double headers. They are right to an extent. Calling next Monday a firm deadline is just another attempted PR tactic. MLB owners claimed the lockout was (a) to prevent a strike by the players when none had yet been threatened and (b) to create a sense of urgency in the players to make an agreement. Of course, that was on the heels of a meeting on Dec 1 that lasted all of seven minutes in which the owners’ negotiators declined to discuss core economic issues. It was also followed by almost two months before the owners called for the next negotiations with the MLBPA. Who was it who needed a sense of urgency, again? Earlier this month, Commissioner Manfred stated the owners were “forced” to cancel spring training games from Feb 26 to Mar 5 due to the impasse. The MLBPA correctly pointed out the owners were not forced as the owners were the ones locking out the players and not the players being unwilling to report or play, ie the players are not on strike. It is the same thing with calling Feb 28 a firm deadline for playing a 162 game schedule. If the season gets abridged, then that is by choice by the owners. The owners are merely playing chicken with an artificial and arbitrary barricade that they themselves have erected. However, while the players are right that some games could be made up with double headers (or by extending the season into October and accepting an early November World Series, there are practical limitations. 162 games does become not feasible in early March.
Meanwhile, the owners’ only change to their proposal today was to increase its offered minimum salary to $640K, which would still be the lowest of any of the four major pro sports in this country. Both sides have to stop moving by inches while they are miles apart if they really want avert a shortened season and the guaranteed financial hit from the bad PR and fan anger.