By Reynaldo Cruz Díaz
After days of negotiation, contradiction, lockout and initial cancelation of the first two weeks of the 2022 MLB regular season, the meetings between the Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association hit rock bottom this Wednesday. However, an agreement has been reached Thursday–pending ratification–between both parties, setting Opening Day for April 7.
According to a report by Mark Feinsand in MLB.com, the new CBA must be ratified before it becomes official. Once it does, spring camps will open.
Feinsand added that the deal “… came to fruition a day after MLB postponed Opening Day until April 14 in the absence of a new agreement and announced that each team’s first four series were removed from the schedule. However, as part of this agreement, a full 162-game schedule will be played, and the four series that were previously removed from the calendar will be rescheduled. The makeup games that came as a result of the delay will be rescheduled as nine-inning doubleheaders.”
This eliminates the practice used in 2021, in which seven inning doubleheaders were put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such measure, although useful to shorten the time of games, provoked a lot of criticism from game purists, and feats like the no-hit game by Madison Bumgarner or the one thrown by the Rays’ pitching staff will not officially count as no-hitters for having been played in only seven frames.
The report also states that:
“The new five-year CBA is expected to include increased minimum salaries, a new pre-arbitration bonus pool to reward the top young players in the game, a raise in competitive balance tax thresholds, the introduction of a universal designated hitter, the widest-ranging Draft lottery in pro sports, elimination of Draft-pick compensation for signed free agents, a system to prevent alleged service-time manipulation, limits on the number of times a player can be optioned in a season and a 12-team postseason. There will also be the evaluation of an international Draft.”
Apart from the aforementioned implementation of a universal designated hitter, some issues had already been agreed upon by both MLB and the MLBPA, including the banning of the shift. The former will protect pitchers from injury and keep managers from losing a hurler late in a game for having to use a pinch hitter, whereas the latter will most likely result in more balls in play and better batting average for dead pull hitters.
The international draft, which is being under evaluation, has already found some caution among important baseball people, including recently elected hall of famer David Ortiz, who said, as per a report by Jeff Pasan in ESPN, that:
“The system in the Dominican is not ready to have a draft next year. The Dominican is not the U.S. You can’t snap a finger and everything lines up to operate the right way. We’ve got a new president who’s trying to improve things. We need to do this slowly.”
Such international draft might find certain hurdles to come around, given the current situation of baseball in a country like Cuba, whose lack of affiliation to organized baseball has led to an irregular flow of players and the lack of a steady market.
With the officialization of the CBA, the free agent market will get fired up, as over 200 players, including big names like Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Trevor Story, Nick Castellanos, Anthony Rizzo or Clayton Kershaw (who might choose retirement as one of his options) remain unsigned.
This news comes after a sour moment between both sides, and an initial cancellation of yet another week of regular season games. If it finally comes to fruition–as everything indicates will happen–the loyalty of the fans, who will now get to enjoy a full 162-game season, as opposed to the 144 games they would have had if the second week of April had been lost, might be restored.