No deal: What we know and don't know as MLB delays Opening Day

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

No deal. The MLB lockout continues.

Major League Baseball has announced the delay of the 2022 regular season after the MLBPA player leaders agreed unanimously not to accept MLB's final proposal before the league's 5 p.m. ET deadline.

What's next? Will Opening Day really be pushed back? Why can't the owners and the players come together? How much longer is this mess going to last?

ESPN baseball experts Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Passan tackle the biggest questions surrounding MLB's ongoing labor dispute.

They've had three months to get a deal done; why haven't owners and players been able to agree on a new CBA?

There are several macro reasons this hasn't gotten done -- the players' deep-seated mistrust of ownership, a desire to make significant gains on a Collective Bargaining Agreement that was gamed by savvy front offices, a nationwide penchant by corporate billionaires to maximize profits no matter the blowback -- but here's a micro one: At the onset of negotiations, owners expressed a willingness to reallocate the money that goes to players but not to increase it. In other words, the pie could change but not grow any larger.

The owners' position ran in stark contrast with the union's ambitions. It's why every counter from the league seemed to include a back-end component -- like a salary floor with a significantly lower ceiling -- and why proposals around minimum salaries, the luxury tax threshold and the amount of money that would fund a new player pool were nominal at best. The league waited three months to counter the union's first core-economics proposal, then six weeks to circle back after imposing the lockout in December -- clear signs to the union that owners were motivated to drag this out in hopes of making the players cave.

The real negotiations didn't take place until the final week of February. By that point, the union had given up on its demands for earlier free agency and revenue-sharing cuts and made significant concessions on the percentage of additional players who would become eligible for arbitration early. Owners, in turn, made more generous proposals around minimum salaries, the luxury tax threshold and the additional player pool. But the gap remains too wide. Owners don't want to spend significantly more. Players believe -- given the additional cash that will be provided by an expanded postseason, not to mention the upcoming influx of gambling -- that they should. -- Alden Gonzalez

What happens to negotiations, now that the deadline to start on time has passed?

The sides will continue talking so long as each feels it's advantageous to do so. As the deadline approached, there was a willingness to move on issues where both sides have been entrenched, which is an obvious consequence of the league putting the deadline in place and illustrates the reason for it. There is a deal to be made. Everyone involved knows that. It's just a matter of finding not necessarily a deal that makes all parties happy, but one with which both can live -- knowing that the terms of it, plus avoiding the awfulness that comes with losing even more games, beat the alternative. -- Jeff Passan

When is the earliest the MLB season could start, now that Opening Day is being delayed?

Rob Manfred announced that the first two series of the regular season have been canceled and will not be made up. So the earliest the season could begin is April 7.

Is there anything the commissioner could do to start the season without a new CBA agreement?

Absolutely. Rob Manfred could lift the lockout, and the players could report to work and play under the old agreement. He's unlikely to do this because it gives players the ability to strike, and because the competitive balance tax sunset in the old CBA means MLB essentially would be operating without it, but the league does have that option in its pocket. -- Passan

Will the schedule be picked up as currently set when the season finally begins, or will MLB need to come up with a new schedule for a shortened season?

The league will pick up the schedule. Doing otherwise -- with tickets having been sold to specific games on specific dates -- would be very complicated. -- Passan

Does either side gain more leverage in negotiations if the regular season continues to be delayed?

The owners have the upper hand. They're billionaires, and they often own their franchises for decades, passing them down through generations. Over the long haul, a few missed games within a season is merely a blip on their radar. Players' careers are significantly shorter, and thus, so is their earning power. They make significantly greater sacrifices when games are missed. The bet being made by owners is that missing paychecks will fracture the union enough for the players to come down further to their side.

The MLB Players Association has been preparing for this since the last CBA was signed more than five years ago, storing away a significant chunk of licensing checks to pay players during a potential work stoppage. Beginning in April, players will be paid $15,000 a month. That doesn't come close to matching their typical salaries. But the players have some leverage: expanded playoffs and the financial windfall that comes from it, which the union was smart to tie to a full season.

Public support is seemingly in the players' favor, too. The blame for a shortened season, and the ripple effects of it, fall mostly on MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, fair or not. He is at the mercy of the owners who employ him, but it's his job to build enough consensus to strike a deal. -- Gonzalez