Rob Manfred had just announced at 6 o’clock that he would cancel the second week of games. Dan Halem, MLB Deputy Commissioner, was concerned that the lockout could continue for a long time.

At 6:24 p.m., on March 9, Matt Nussbaum, union deputy general counsel, sent a new proposal to his inbox.

Halem was still in the office at the end of that night and he thought: “I thought there was a chance we could get it done.”

Major League Baseball’s labor agreement was finally signed on March 10, after 11 months of bargaining.

Talks had been halted over an international draft. But Halem’s outlook changed between Manfred’s cancellation announcement and MLB’s publication at 6:30 p.m.

Baseball labor relations are a mixture of banter, bluster, tenacity, resistance, revising, and revising.

The end result was that there was no face-to-face meeting. Instead, the parties negotiated over the phone and via email.

Manfred’s decision to cancel the session came just four hours after the previous in-person session. MLB staff sent the union an edited version of Nussbaum’s email that night. After some back-and forth in the morning, players agreed to participate.

At 10:30 am on March 10, Halem called a Zoom of the labor-policy committee. At noon, Senior Vice President Patrick Houlihan sent an email to Bruce Meyer, Nussbaum, and general counsel Ian Penny. This was a best-and final offer to preserve a 162-game season with full pay and attached a 3 pm deadline.

Zoom started the meeting at 1 p.m. and Meyer texted Halem just before 2 p.m. to ask for more time.

Jon Heyman, a veteran baseball writer, tweeted the balloting in real-time. First at 2:50 p.m. “Union executive board appears be voting against approval.” Next at 3:07 p.m. “Team votes are coming now. … So far, players have voted against the executive council.”

Management negotiators heard cheers from other areas on the MLB’s Rockefeller Center floor at 3:17. They were in response to his tweet, “Union votes yes for deal.”

Final vote: 26-12 to approve, executive subcommittee opposed. Team player representatives were 26-4 to approve.

Meyer called Halem 20 minutes later to report the news. At 6 p.m., the owners unanimously approved the Zoom.

Meyer stated that 38 men made up our executive board were involved in every stage of the process, whether they participated in meetings directly or were briefed multiple times per day.

“All of our actions were based on the guidance and input from the board. We wanted to explore every option for a fair deal, without losing any games. Guys were willing to do whatever was necessary to get a fair deal if there wasn’t one. The majority of men agreed that the deal was fair and worthwhile without risking missing out on any games.

Collective bargaining is the act of negotiating in sports. Players and managers are unable to disclose their bottom-line positions before it is too late.

Meyer, a 60-year-old, bespeckled, bearded sports lawyer and litigator who worked for Weil, Gotshal & Manges for 30 years, was hired as the union’s senior director of collective bargaining.

Halem, an ex-Proskauer partner of 55 years, joined MLB in 2007, and became the chief negotiator for MLB before the 2016 agreement. Meyer’s inadequacy with historical information about the CBA frustrated him repeatedly.

The Rashomon effect of bargaining is felt by the parties.

The initial turning point for MLB was February 28, during 16 hours of talks held in Jupiter, Florida. These discussions would continue until 2 a.m. on the following morning. The meeting between Halem, Morgan Sword, Meyer, and Kevin Slowey, union director of player service, lasted nearly an hour and took place in a second-floor conference room. Both sides discussed how to create a framework for trades and packages.

Meyer was still pessimistic and focused on the large number of gaps. He believed management was trying to create an unwarranted optimism.

Prior to Dec. 2, there had been 14 unsuccessful bargaining sessions. The first presentation was made on April 20, and the second proposal was made May 6. Sessions were held over Zoom because of the pandemic and were dominated by speeches.

Both sides met in person in Denver on August 16th, when MLB made an offer for economic cooperation. On Oct. 29, the day before World Series Game 3, the union responded. The union responded on Oct. 29, the day of World Series Game 3. There were three more meetings that began Nov. 29 at Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas, Irving, Texas. MLB declined to entertain players’ offers, but they did accept their offer.

Halem stated, “It was obvious there wasn’t going be a deal before that deadline.”

The bargaining broke down, and the negotiators of management left the hotel nine hours before midnight EST when the contract was due to expire. MLB was preparing for a signing freeze. Instead, the teams rushed to conclude a record $1.4 billion worth of contracts for 27 players.

January 13th was the last day of economic negotiations, and that was only with one Zoom. For the first time since Jan. 24, the sides met in person at the union’s New York branch. The players withdrew the proposal to allow free agency with an age-based backstop.

The sides met again on the next day. MLB dropped its plan to reduce salary arbitration eligibility. MLB also agreed for the first time to the union’s concept of a prearbitration bonus pool at $10 million to the union’s $105 millions.

The result was a series glacially-paced sessions that confirmed spring training wouldn’t start on February 16. The union rejected MLB’s request to have a federal mediator and the Feb. 17 session was only 15 minutes long. Meyer was told by Halem in a one-on-1 session that a deal must be reached by February 28th to save March 31 openers.

Talks moved to Roger Dean Stadium on February 21st, which is the spring training facility of the St. Louis Cardinals as well as the Miami Marlins. It is located less than three miles away from Max Scherzer’s home, where he earns $43 million. The sides met with more than 12 players and many owners. They spent four days feeling out each other, with testiness growing and players shouting at Halem, owners, and others in frustration at the lack of tax proposals.

Manfred and Tony Clark had a one-on-one meeting on Friday, February 25, at about 4 p.m. They discussed the playoff format and then lasted for 30 minutes. It was the first sign that there was movement.

Although there was more bargaining on the weekend, it was not until Monday’s marathon that significant progress was made. It was 13 sessions in 16 1/2 hours.

Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees general partner and manager, stated that he hasn’t slept so much since college.

MLB expressed more confidence than the union, and Manfred extended Manfred’s deadline to save opening-day until Tuesday at 5 p.m. Talks stalled after another union conference call. Each side was launching into each other.

Manfred called a press conference in the left field corner after the deadline expired, cancelling a week’s worth of games. The union held its media session at the Wyndham Grande Jupiter two hours later. Meyer and Scherzer were accompanied by Andrew Miller, who was the reliever, and there were more than a dozen other players in the audience.

On Sunday, March 6, bargaining resumed. This would mark the beginning of five consecutive days of negotiations that would culminate in the agreement. There had been enough progress by then that Justin Wiley and Vanish Grover, MLB counsel, began preparing a 20-page memo describing the terms Halem would send to club control personnel on March 10.

Manfred received approval from the labor committee Monday for Tuesday’s deadline to cancel another week. He also told the union that it was the last chance to get in 162 more games and still receive full pay. This was done during a three on three meeting at the union office, which began at 3:30 p.m.

Manfred stated that collective bargaining is about the use of deadlines, extending deadlines, and knowing when to set them and when they should be canceled.

MLB extended the deadline to Wednesday after 16 1/2 hours worth of talks. The meeting was recessed at 2:05 a.m. in order to allow another player to meet in the morning. The day was filled with tensions about the draft. Three union officials made a three-block walk through the rain and snow to hand-deliver an agreement.

Manfred’s fifth deadline worked and the season started a week late on April 7.

Meyer stated that the deal was better than ever at each stage, even within the last 24 hours. “Players don’t like being given deadlines. They don’t like being given deadlines. However, certain aspects of the calendar did influence the assessment of where the parties were.

The luxury tax threshold offered by MLB rose from $214 million to $220 millions two days later, and to $230 million on March 8. The figure for 2026 rose from $222million on February 26 to $244million by the end.

Similar results were achieved with the pre-arbitration bonus pool, which increased from $10 million to $40 million on January 25, and $50 million to the final deal.

The executive subcommittee felt the union could have pushed harder — seven of eight earned more than $12 million last year. Five are represented by Scott Boras, the game’s top agent. According to the union, the majority of the larger executive committee approved the deal. This was a sign of the democratic nature of a union that encourages widespread attendance at the Zooms.

Meyer stated that Meyer did not tell teams how or who to vote for as player reps. Meyer said that teams make their own decisions. They tend to be younger men in some clubhouses. Some clubhouses have veterans.

On the 99th day, after 325 days of negotiations that had taken longer than a season, a contract was reached. Instead of a joint news conference, media sessions were held in separate locations, separated by three blocks and one day. This suggests that the 2026-27 negotiations might have the same tone.

Just 161 1/2 hour after Manfred’s announcement of the end of the lockout, Boston’s Michael Feliz threw spring training’s first pitch. It was a fastball strike taken by Minnesota’s Byron Buxton in front of an audience of 8,303 at JetBlue Park, Fort Myers, Florida.

Baseball returned to some sense of normal.