Lockout timeline: League poised to cancel games


The delay to spring training is upon us, and a full regular season appears to be in jeopardy.

Big-league camps were scheduled to open last week with the arrival of pitchers and catchers. That did not happen as the MLB lockout is ongoing. 

The exhibition slate is also postponed and will start no sooner than March 5, and MLB said it will begin canceling regular season games without a labor agreement in the coming days.

MLB and the players union remain far apart in their negotiations. Where do those negotiations stand, and how did we get here?

Catch up on the lockout's timeline, starting with the latest news back to a non-starter in negotiations from late last summer.

MLB to start canceling games if no deal by Monday

Feb. 23, 2022 — As the league-implemented lockout rolls on, an MLB spokesperson says the league will begin canceling regular season games without a new labor deal by Monday, according to multiple reports.

MLB previously set Feb. 28 as a deadline for an agreement merely for the regular season to start on time. 

The spokesperson also says players will not be paid full salaries for the season without a deal by Monday. That could yet be subject to negotiation or legal action, however, depending on where the lockout heads.

The news comes shortly after Wednesday's negotiating session between the league and players union ends. Wednesday marks the first time the two sides meet for three straight days during the lockout.

MLB slightly raises its proposal to increase the minimum player salary but a wide gap remains with the union's last proposal — and other key economic issues.

MLB and the players are set to meet again Thursday.

Little movement in talks as MLB, union meet again

Feb. 22, 2022 — MLB and the union meet for a second straight day in Florida but talks produce little progress towards a new labor deal.

The union makes a counterproposal to the league's Monday offer, which covers issues including minimum player salary, a draft lottery and the percentage of players eligible for arbitration after two seasons. The talks don't include the luxury tax, the most significant issue of the labor battle.

According to multiple reports, the league makes a second request for federal mediation, which the union rejects again.

MLB and the union are set to meet again Wednesday, but one report characterizes the two sides as "disappointed" by the other's latest proposals.

MLB makes slight tweaks to pair of proposals

Feb. 21, 2022 — MLB and the players union meet in Jupiter, Fla. as labor negotiations continue. The two sides are reportedly in the same place for at least four hours, meeting twice, with lengthy meetings separate from one another in between.

MLB slightly tweaks its proposal for a bonus pool for productive pre-arbitration players (up $5 million, to $20 million) and also increases it proposal for a draft lottery to include four teams, up from three. 

A significant gap remains between the league and union on both issues. The union last week increased its bonus pool proposal to $115 million (from $100 million) and has proposed an eight-team draft lottery.

The two sides don't broach the biggest issue, the luxury tax, but will meet again Tuesday. The end of this month is viewed as the deadline for a new labor deal in order for Opening Day to happen as scheduled March 31.

MLB postpones first week of spring games

Feb. 18, 2022 — MLB officially announces the first week of spring training games are postponed amid the ongoing lockout. The exhibition slate will start no earlier than March 5.

The postponement has looked increasingly likely with the lockout still in place and MLB and the players union far apart in labor negotiations. Cactus League and Grapefruit League openers were scheduled for Feb. 26.

MLB also announces the next negotiating session with the players union is Monday, and the two sides are set to meet every day next week as they look to work out a new labor agreement.

MLB, players union meeting lasts 15 minutes

Feb. 17, 2022 — MLB and the players union meet in New York, though little progress is made in labor negotiations. The meeting ends after 15 minutes.

The union modifies its proposal for a bonus pool for productive pre-arbitration players from $110 million to $115 million, in exchange for limiting the number of players who would be arbitration eligible after two years of big-league service time.

With the two sides still far apart on the luxury tax threshold and other key issues, the start of the exhibition slate — scheduled to begin Feb. 26 — looks increasingly likely to be postponed, and an on-time start to the regular season is in jeopardy.

Spring training officially delayed

Feb. 15, 2022 — The first official report date for pitchers and catchers for multiple big-league camps arrives with the lockout still in place. The start of spring training is now delayed.

Spring training games are scheduled to begin in two weeks but look increasingly likely to be postponed due to the work stoppage.

Delay to season looms with little progress in labor talks

Feb. 12, 2022 — MLB and the players union meet in New York as the league makes its latest proposal. The 130-page proposal includes slight increases from past offers to the luxury tax threshold — the biggest issue in negotiations — and minimum player salary. 

The proposal reportedly underwhelms the union, and the lack of significant progress in the meeting all but officially means spring training will be delayed. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report in the coming days.

Rob Manfred vows 'good faith' proposal in next meeting

Feb. 10, 2022 — Manfred tells reporters at the quarterly owners meetings in Florida that MLB will make the players union a counterproposal in a scheduled Saturday meeting.

"We are going to make a good-faith, positive proposal in an effort to move the process forward," Manfred says. "It's a good proposal."

Whether MLB's proposal assures progress in negotiations looks critical. Manfred adds there's "no change" to the status of spring training, but a delay looks inevitable considering teams are scheduled to report next week.

An on-time start to the regular season is also in jeopardy. Opening Day is scheduled for March 31.

Saturday's scheduled meeting will be the first between the league and union in over a week.

Union rejects league's mediation request, both release statements

Feb. 4, 2022 — The union rejects MLB's proposal for a federal mediator to join negotiations, one day after the league makes the request. 

"The clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table," a union statement reads, in part. "Players stand ready to negotiate."

MLB later releases its own statement.

"It is clear the most productive path forward would be the involvement of an impartial third party to help bridge gaps and facilitate an agreement," the statement reads, in part.

The union rejecting mediation is the biggest indication yet that spring training will be delayed, if not the start to the regular season, as the two sides remain far apart in negotiations.

Owners won't make counteroffer, seek federal mediation

Feb. 3, 2022 — Amid the snail-paced progress in negotiations, MLB seeks assistance of a federal mediator to help resolve the differences with the players union, ESPN's Jeff Passan reports.

The news comes two days after the union's latest economic proposal. MLB chooses to seek mediation and not make a counteroffer to the union's last proposal.

The request doesn't assure mediation becomes the next step as the union has to sign off on a third party joining negotiations.

Spring training delay looms after latest lockout talks

Feb. 1, 2022 — MLB and the union meet for the fourth time since the lockout started but make "little progress," according to multiple reports.

In the 90-minute meeting, the union slightly modifies its proposal regarding service time manipulation and a bonus pool for pre-arbitration eligible players. There's no movement on key economic issues including the luxury tax and minimum player salaries.

Teams are scheduled to report to spring training in two weeks. With the two sides still far apart on many key issues, the chance of starting camp on time looks remote.

MLB, union exchange proposals to increase minimum salary

Jan. 25, 2022 — The league and players meet for a second straight day, a one-hour meeting in which major league minimum salary is discussed. The league proposes an increase to $615,000 (from the 2021 figure of $570,500).

The union proposes $750,000, which would be the highest minimum salary increase in almost two decades.

Industry revenues have increased by approximately 53 percent since 2012 through 2019, to an estimated $10.4 billion in 2019 (pre-pandemic).

During that time of record revenue growth, minimum salaries have not increased by more than 5.42 percent from one season to the next. That came from 2016-17, the last time a new collective bargaining agreement was negotiated.

RELATED: Lockout FAQ: What’s in it for either side to agree quickly

It’s a small contributor to the fact that in recent seasons, the average major league salary has gone down (pre-pandemic) for the first time since collusion in the 1980s.

MLB, union meet in person for first time during lockout

Jan. 24, 2022 — MLB and the players union meet for the second time since the lockout began — and first time in person — with a two-hour meeting in New York.

During the meeting, the union drops its proposal to shorten the service time necessary to make players eligible for free agency, leaving the requirement at six years, while also modifying its revenue sharing proposal.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day is talks do not go backwards.

MLB, MLBPA hold first economic negotiation of lockout

Jan. 13, 2022 — MLB and the union meet to discuss the game’s economics for the first time in over 40 days. The league makes its first economic proposal of the lockout, which goes nowhere with the union.

The league’s proposal includes issues such as the arbitration system and service time manipulation. Key issues including minimum salaries, revenue sharing and the luxury tax are not discussed.

MLB enters lockout as collective bargaining agreement expires

Dec. 2, 2021 — MLB’s owners unanimously vote to implement a lockout upon the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. It’s the game’s first work stoppage since 1994.

"Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season," Manfred says in a statement. "We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time.

"This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option."

The players union calls the lockout a “dramatic measure” in a statement.

"It is not required by law or for any other reason," the union's statement reads. "It was the owners' choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure Players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just Players, but the game and industry as a whole."

MLB, union meet with CBA nearing expiration

Dec. 1, 2021 — Less than 12 hours before the CBA is set to expire at 10:59 p.m. CT, the league and union meet in Dallas — negotiations that last less than 10 minutes before ending for the day.

The following week, during an appearance on 670 The Score, Cubs outfielder and union rep Ian Happ says the league “didn’t make one economic proposal” during negotiations over the three-day period in Dallas. Happ calls it a “horrible way to negotiate.”

Manfred indicates MLB lockout could be coming

Nov. 18, 2021 — During the owners meetings in Chicago in November, commissioner Rob Manfred discusses the ongoing labor negotiations with reporters and indicates what is to come.

"An offseason lockout that moves the process forward is different than a labor dispute that costs games," Manfred says, per The Athletic's Evan Drellich.

Jerry Reinsdorf: Owners’ last CBA offer ‘very fair’

Oct. 10, 2021 — In an interview with NBC Sports Chicago, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf discusses the owners' August offer and expresses optimism of reaching a new CBA before the Dec. 1 expiration.

“Look, these deals get made the last week,” Reinsdorf says. “It’s the same thing with players’ contracts in arbitration. They all settle the last day.”

MLB makes first economic proposal

Aug. 16, 2021 — In the first meeting between the league and union discussing the game’s economics, MLB proposes adding a salary floor of $100 million and lowering the luxury tax threshold to $180 million — a 14.3 percent decrease from the 2021 threshold of $210 million. That’s a rollback to 2012 levels. 

Not surprisingly, the proposal is a non-starter for the union.

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