Braves’ season opener, first two series canceled as lockout continues

For the first time in 27 years, baseball’s opening day will be delayed by a labor dispute. AP file photo

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
For the first time in 27 years, baseball’s opening day will be delayed by a labor dispute. AP file photo

Credit: AP

Scratch at least the first six games off the Braves’ regular-season schedule.

Negotiators for the Major League Baseball owners and players failed again Tuesday to reach agreement on a new labor deal. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred responded by canceling the first week of the season, marking the first time in 27 years that baseball’s opening day will be delayed by a labor dispute.

“The calendar dictates that we’re not going to be able to play (each team’s) first two series of the regular season, and those games are officially canceled,” Manfred said.

For the defending World Series champion Braves, Manfred’s announcement wiped out the scheduled season opener March 31 against the Marlins in Miami, as well as three more games in Miami through April 3 and two games against the Mets in New York on April 4-5.

Still on the calendar for now – but also at risk of cancellation unless an agreement is reached soon – is the Braves’ scheduled April 7 home opener against Cincinnati at Truist Park.

The breakdown in negotiations came the day after a marathon bargaining session on Monday seemed to produce some progress. MLB previously had said it would begin canceling games if a deal weren’t reached by the end of Monday, but at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, the league extended the deadline until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

That, too, passed without an agreement after the union rejected MLB’s final offer before the deadline.

Significant gaps remained in a series of economic issues, including the payroll level at which teams would incur “luxury tax” penalties, the amount of money MLB would put into a new bonus pool for top players not yet eligible for salary arbitration and the minimum salary.

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Manfred said the 30 team owners are “100% behind the proposal that was made and the decision to cancel games, given where we are in the negotiation.”

Players Association executive director Tony Clark called Tuesday “a sad day” and said the players remain united in their fight for meaningful change in baseball’s economic system.

“We are seeking improvements to our CBA (collective bargaining agreement) because significant improvements are needed,” Clark said. “We have made no mistake about that fact over the course of the last three or four years, based on what we have seen on the field and off the field.”

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MLB has said -- and Manfred reiterated Tuesday -- that regular-season games missed because of the lockout won’t be made up and that players won’t be paid for those games. The Players Association plans to challenge that stance in subsequent negotiations.

“It would be our position ... that as a feature of any deal for us to come back that we would be asking for compensation and/or to have those games rescheduled,” said Bruce Meyer, the union’s senior director for collective bargaining and legal. “If the league decides unilaterally to pull down games and then we have a deal, players should get compensated for those games.”

If MLB’s position on the issue holds, Braves players would lose a combined total of more than $800,000 for each day eliminated from the regular-season schedule, based on a projected 2022 payroll at or above last year’s end-of-season level.

That would include daily losses of $107,527 by starting pitcher Charlie Morton, $86,021 by outfielder Marcell Ozuna, $80,645 by outfielder Ronald Acuna, $69,892 by relief pitcher Will Smith, $43,011 by catcher Travis d’Arnaud and $26,882 by second baseman Ozzie Albies, according to calculations by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The continuing lockout will keep spring-training camps closed to major-league players and will keep much of the business of baseball shut down, including trades and free-agent negotiations.

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts to his solo homer for the 7-0 lead over the Astros during the seventh inning in game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts to his solo homer for the 7-0 lead over the Astros during the seventh inning in game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston.   “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reacts to his solo homer for the 7-0 lead over the Astros during the seventh inning in game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

For the Braves, that means the status of free-agent first baseman Freddie Freeman will remain indefinitely in limbo.

Freeman and the Braves didn’t reach agreement on a new contract before the lockout, leaving open the question of whether he’ll continue his career here or sign with another club. No team is permitted to negotiate with him or other free agents until the lockout ends.

Three outfielders who starred for the Braves in last year’s postseason – National League Division Series standout Joc Pederson, NL Championship Series MVP Eddie Rosario and World Series MVP Jorge Soler – also are free agents and will remain without a team until the lockout ends.

The next round of labor negotiations had not been scheduled as of Tuesday night, Manfred said.

“We had a really late night (Monday) and not a particularly productive day (Tuesday),” he said. “We need to regroup and figure out how we’re going to move the process forward.”