Major League Baseball Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, left, Senior Vice...

Major League Baseball Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, left, Senior Vice President Patrick Houlihan, center, and Executive Vice President Morgan Sword, right, arrive at the office of the players' association in New York for labor negotiations, Sunday, March 6, 2022. MLB spokesman Glen Caplin is at far left.  Credit: AP/Ron Blum

Opening Day keeps feeling further and further away.

That was the immediate thought after Major League Baseball came off as frustrated and annoyed by the Players Association’s most recent proposal, which was delivered Sunday during a roughly 90-minute meeting at the union’s headquarters in Manhattan.

Not only did an MLB spokesperson point to the perceived lack of progress in the latest round of talks for a new collective bargaining agreement — only the second face-to-face contact between the two sides since Tuesday’s split in Jupiter, Florida — but also suggested the players went "backwards" in Sunday’s exchange.

With the first week of the regular season (a total of 91 games) already canceled and spring training games wiped out through March 17, backward is a dangerous place to be on the 95th day of the MLB-orchestrated lockout, the second-longest work stoppage in the sport’s history.

Though MLB was noncommittal Sunday on the subject of erasing more April games, that’s got to be coming very soon with another week off the calendar since commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series last Tuesday.

"We were hoping to see movement in our direction to give us additional flexibility and get a deal done quickly," MLB spokesperson Glen Caplin said. "The Players Association chose to come back to us with a proposal that was worse than Monday night and was not designed to move the process forward. On some issues, they even went backwards. Simply put, we are deadlocked. We will try to figure out how to respond, but nothing in this proposal makes it easy."

As of Sunday night, the Players Association said it was prepared to meet again Monday, but MLB still was mulling its next move. The two sides negotiated for nine consecutive days last week in Jupiter — including the extension of Manfred’s Feb. 28 deadline — but Sunday was the only full negotiating session since Tuesday.

Some optimism was expressed toward the end of Monday’s 16-hour series of meetings at Roger Dean Stadium, but MLB evidently believes the promise of those discussions unraveled with Sunday’s proposal by the players.

The union’s latest proposal did reduce the pre-arbitration bonus pool to $80 million, down from $85 million, compared to MLB’s $30 million request, but with increases of $5 million over each year of the new CBA. The players also were agreeable to three rule changes for 2023 — a pitch clock, bigger bases and banning the shift — but did not sign off on the use of robot umpires to call balls and strikes. Any changes would be subject to an 11-man committee, including six MLB personnel, four union members and an umpire, in order to provide 45 days’ notice for implementation.

As for the competitive balance tax, a huge hurdle in these negotiations, the Players Association did not budge from its previous proposal on the payroll thresholds, which start at $238 million and rise to $263 million by the final year of the deal. MLB has stood firm on its opening payroll threshold of $220 million, which remains in place for the first three years, a request that the players currently view as an impossible number. From there, it goes to $224 million and $230 million, making the final year still $8 million below the union’s request for the first year of the deal.

The union did not make any alterations to its minimum-salary ask of $725,000 with $20,000 bumps in the first three years (MLB is starting at $675,000 with $10,000 annual raises). As for the expanded playoffs, the two sides agreed to 12 teams Tuesday despite the owners’ preference for 14, but the players have shown a willingness to agree to add those two teams — on their terms. The union would approve 14 only if the "ghost-win" format is used, with the highest seeds starting the first series with a 1-0 lead. To this point, the "ghost win" concept appears to be a non-starter for the owners, however.

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