Often uttered when the days are short, the sun seems absent and winter feels unrelenting, the familiar four-word phrase accompanied with a varying date each year generates a nostalgic hopeful feeling in baseball fans.
“Pitchers and catchers report” represents a metaphorical beginning of spring and the unofficial start to Major League Baseball spring training since many players usually arrive a week in advance and the first official workout is the following day.
That was supposed to happen Tuesday at most spring-training complexes in Arizona and Florida, including the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Arizona.
Instead, those pitchers and catchers who were supposed to take their official physicals for their respective teams and begin official workouts Wednesday, remained locked out of their jobs with no timeline to return.
It was last Thursday when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking to the media for the first time since locking out the players on Dec. 2, somewhat surprisingly refused to admit that the start spring training would be delayed. Given the minimal movement and meetings between the MLB owners and the MLBPA, it seemed more like a public-relations ploy than an actual belief. And when MLB owners knowingly submitted an offer on Saturday that wouldn’t be accepted or barely considered, spring training starting as scheduled was done.
No bargaining session between the two sides has been scheduled as of yet, per multiple reports, which makes the first week of spring-training games, starting on Feb. 26, likely in doubt.
With each passing day where both sides accuse the other of being greedy and unrealistic and no real movement toward an agreement, including an infuriating lack of bargaining sessions, the possibility of opening day — March 31 — being delayed grows stronger.
Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, MLB set a deadline of Feb. 28 for a deal to be made to salvage opening day. That would give teams roughly four weeks of spring training. There is likely wiggle room by a few days to make it work. Though there is concern for future injuries due to a quicker than usual buildup.
While the two sides have agreed upon a universal designated hitter and an expanded playoffs for the new CBA, the core economic issues remain.
Both sides are willing to increase the minimum salary and offer a bonus pool for pre-arbitration players who have significant success. But they are not close to agreeing on totals for either. The union wants increases to the competitive balance tax thresholds and reduced revenue sharing between teams to reduce the number of teams committing to lengthy rebuilds and reducing payroll in the process.
The players would like change to the salary arbitration structure but know that the owners won’t give in to that effort.
The next significant date is Monday when position players are scheduled to report to spring training for physicals. That isn’t going to happen either.
Will the two sides even meet before then?