With Major League Baseball and its players embroiled in a labor dispute, spring training in Arizona and the Cactus League season hang in the balance.
Baseball has not seen a work stoppage since 1994, when the players went on strike in midseason and the dispute dragged into the next year. The salary cap was the basis of that conflict; there are more issues on the table this time around.
The lockout is likely to disrupt spring training and could impact the regular season. The owners wanted to bring in a federal mediator to assist ending the stalemate, but the players rejected that as a “publicity stunt.”
For now, there are more questions than answers, but here is rundown of where things stand.
Is MLB spring training canceled?
Technically, no. At least not yet. Commissioner Rob Manfred said Feb. 10, “The status of spring training is no change right now.” But the idea of players showing up as previously scheduled — around Feb. 16 — is viewed as nearly impossible.
There is almost certain to be some kind of delay on their arrival, which likely means there will be a delay on the back end with the start of games.
When were spring training games supposed to start?
Games were scheduled to begin in late February, about 10 days or so after pitchers and catchers were supposed to report. For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are scheduled to play their first game against each other on Feb. 26 at Salt River Fields. Spring training games continue through March with the Chicago Cubs and White Sox meeting in final schedule game March 29 at Sloan Park in Mesa.
Manfred said the league will not play spring training games with non-union personnel (i.e., minor league players).
When might camps open post-lockout?
Manfred said on Feb. 10 that camps could begin less than a week after a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. He also said it makes sense for spring training to last a minimum of four weeks.
Is the regular baseball season in jeopardy?
The regular season is scheduled to start on March 31, so using that four-week comment as a rule would mean the sides will probably have to come to terms sometime during the first week of March.
That said, two years ago players and teams prepared for the 2020 pandemic season during a three-week “summer camp,” so perhaps a shorter ramp-up is possible.
Is this an MLB lockout or strike?
It is a lockout. MLB team owners decided to lock out the players when the old CBA expired on Dec. 1, 2021. Players were immediately banned from team facilities, and transactions involving union members were frozen.
MLB chose this course of action to maintain control of timing. The two sides could have kept playing under terms of the old CBA while continuing to negotiate, but that would have given players the option to strike during the season. That happened in August 1994, the last time there was a work stoppage, and it caused then-commissioner Bud Selig to cancel the World Series.
What are they fighting about, anyway?
Well, money, of course. The players believe their salaries are not keeping pace with the sport’s growing revenues. They also would like to see increases in how players are paid early in their careers, a change that would serve to counter practices by modern front offices to curb spending on older players who are not viewed as elite.
Players also would like to see changes put in place that would prevent rebuilding clubs from tanking.
Have they agreed on anything?
As it turns out, yes, they have. Manfred said the sides have agreed to implement a designated hitter in the National League. He also said the sides have talked about 12-team and 14-team playoff fields, up from the current 10 teams (three division winners plus two wild cards from each league).
In addition, the sides have agreed to eliminate the forfeiture of draft picks when signing certain free agents and to implement a draft lottery system, though they have not agreed on how many of the top picks would be involved.
If they play, what teams are in Arizona?
For spring training the 30 MLB teams are evenly divided between Arizona and Florida.
In Arizona, the Cactus League consists of the following clubs and training sites:
—Arizona Diamondbacks, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
—Chicago Cubs, Sloan Park, Mesa
—Chicago White Sox, Camelback Ranch, Phoenix
—Cleveland Guardians, Goodyear Ballpark
—Cincinnati Reds, Goodyear Ballpark
—Colorado Rockies, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick
—Kansas City Royals, Surprise Stadium
—Los Angeles Angels, Tempe Diablo Stadium
—Los Angeles Dodgers, Camelback Ranch, Phoenix
—Oakland Athletics, Hohokam Stadium, Mesa
—San Diego Padres, Peoria Sports Complex
—San Francisco Giants, Scottsdale Stadium
—Seattle Mariners, Peoria Sports Complex
—Texas Rangers, Surprise Stadium