Opening Day of Major League Baseball's regular season cannot happen as scheduled, officials said Tuesday, as management's lockout of players finished its third month with no deal in sight.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement after the league failed to reach a deal with the Major League Baseball Players Association to end the lockout.
"The calendar dictates that we're not going to be able to play the first two series of the regular season and those games are officially canceled," Manfred told reporters Tuesday.
League officials were prepared to continue negotiations, he said, but not enough time remained for spring training before Opening Day on March 31.
"The clubs and our owners fully understand just how important it is to our millions of fans that we get the game on the field as soon as possible," Manfred said. "To that end we want to bargain and we want an agreement with the player’s association as quickly as possible."
A union spokesman confirmed that players rejected the league's latest offer, submitted earlier Tuesday.
In a statement, the union described Tuesday's events as the "culmination of a decades-long attempt by owners to break our player fraternity. As in the past, this effort will fail."
The statement added that its members' "objectives have been consistent — to promote competition, provide fair compensation for young Players, and to uphold the integrity of our market system. Against the backdrop of growing revenues and record profits, we are seeking nothing more than a fair agreement."
MLB had originally set a Monday night deadline for getting a deal done in order to play ball March 31. But talks went into the early morning hours of Tuesday without an announcement, raising hopes that Opening Day might be saved.
"MLB has pumped to the media last night & today that there’s momentum toward a deal," San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Alex Wood tweeted late Tuesday afternoon.
"Now saying the players tone has changed. So if a deal isn’t done today it’s our fault. This isn’t a coincidence. We’ve had the same tone all along. We just want a fair deal/to play ball."
Since the most recent collective bargaining agreement expired on Dec. 1, owners have stopped all off-season transactions — such as trades and free-agent signings — and barred players from training in team facilities.
Management and the union remain far apart on key economic issues that include soft caps on team payrolls and service time players must log before becoming a free agent or be eligible for pay disputes to be settled through arbitration.
The union also wants safeguards against "service time manipulation," in which clubs keep a player in the minor leagues just long enough so that their first season won't count as a full labor year, thus pushing that person's free agency eligibility back by 365 days.
The first pitch of baseball's 2022 season is supposed to take place on March 31 with a full slate of games, starting with the St. Louis Cardinals visiting the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:05 p.m.
MLB's website on Tuesday night listed no games to be played in the first week of April.
The first scheduled contests are set for April 7, with the first pitch set for 1:05 p.m. that day with the Boston Red Sox visiting the New York Yankees.
To save a normal 162-game MLB season, a deal must be made soon, in time to play those March 31 games or with minimal delay so that any lost dates can be sandwiched into pro baseball's highly compacted schedule.
All MLB teams first scheduled 162 games in 1962 and there's only a handful of times that clubs have fallen short of a full slate.
That work stoppage spilled in 1995, forcing a regular season of just 144 games.