MLB Cancels Spring Training Until March, Putting Opening Day in Jeopardy

Major League Baseball announced Friday the official postponement of spring training games until at least March 5, as negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) are set to continue next week.

The lack of progress in negotiations as the two sides approach the league's stated goal of having a deal in place by the end of February could put Opening Day in jeopardy, as Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week that the league's goal is to hold four weeks of spring training before the regular season is set to begin March 31.

"We regret that, without a collective bargaining agreement in place, we must postpone the start of Spring Training games until no earlier than Saturday, March 5," the statement read. "All 30 Clubs are unified in their strong desire to bring players back to the field and fans back to the stands."

Spring training was supposed to be underway by this point in February for every team in baseball, and exhibition games were scheduled to begin February 26, according to CBS Sports.

"MLB announced today that it must 'postpone' the start of spring training games. This is false," the MLBPA said in a statement. "Nothing requires the league to delay the start of spring training, much like nothing required the league's decision to implement the lockout in the first place. Despite these decisions by the league, Players remain committed to the negotiating process."

"I'm an optimist, and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule," Manfred said last week of his belief that the regular season will be able to start on time. The commissioner also said at the time that he believes spring training camps could be brought together within "a few days" once an agreement has been reached between the league and the players.

While the lockout could end at any time the owners and Manfred choose, and players could report to spring training and free agents could negotiate contracts with teams while a new CBA is being negotiated, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported on Thursday that the owners have decided the leverage of a lockout is more valuable than the negative public perception for imposing the lockout.

The two sides have agreed on some compromises like the addition of a designated hitter to the National League, Manfred announced last week, while little progress has been made over several financial issues as the owners argue for measures to limit spending and players argue for measures that would allow young players to reach free agency sooner and make more money earlier in their careers, Passan said.

The league and union will meet again beginning Monday, and potentially meet as often as every day next week as negotiations continue, according to Passan.

A Thursday bargaining session, held on the 78th day of the lockout, ended after just 15 minutes of negotiations with little progress made toward a new deal, and the players expressed frustration at what they perceived as a lack of flexibility from the league on key issues, according to ESPN.

The last time games were missed because of a labor dispute was in 1994, when the players went on strike in August. The end of the 1994 season, including the World Series, was canceled, and the 1995 season was eventually shortened to 144 games after an agreement was reached.

Update 2/18/22, 4:14 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

Major League Baseball Lockout Spring Training Games
Major League Baseball announced on Friday that spring training games will be delayed until at least March 5, jeopardizing the scheduled Opening Day on March 31. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images