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Volume 26 No. 179
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MLB-MLBPA Battle Could Be Biggest Obstacle To Playing In '20

There is a “simmering fear among those inside the sport” that the battle between MLB and the MLBPA ultimately could be what “dooms the 2020 season before it even starts,” according to David Lennon of NEWSDAY. The “most volatile part” of the negotiations around the sports’ planned return is about “compensation for the players.” The deal reached in March called for players “to be paid on a prorated basis depending on the number of games played” once the season resumes. However, that deal includes a clause that states the two sides will “discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.” If the salary issue is a “non-starter this week, it’s going to be difficult to get to anything else, because a payment plan is crucial to getting baseball up and running again.” If the “last remaining hope for this season implodes over money concerns ... that would be a terrible outcome for both sides” (NEWSDAY, 5/11).

PLAYERS' POINT OF VIEW: Several players who hold key leadership positions in the MLBPA indicated that players "want to be paid their full, prorated salaries." But players say that health is "first and foremost on their minds, with fair compensation behind it." Cardinals P and MLBPA Exec Board member Andrew Miller said, "I don't think anything can be done until that (safety) can be guaranteed and we feel comfortable with it." ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers reported players "held an executive board member conference call on Friday in anticipation of earnest discussions with the league next week." They are "hoping to get answers to their health questions, and are also ready to address the financial considerations." Players also believe that in a non-salary-capped system, they "shouldn't be beholden to league profits -- or losses." Miller said, "The way our sport works is we are not tied to revenue in any way." One source said that sharing TV revenue with players "will be part of the proposal from the commissioner's office." Rogers noted that "would give both sides the incentive to increase the amount of playoff teams" for '20 (ESPN.com, 5/9).

THIS WON'T STOP GAMES, WILL IT? In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes there is “no way -- regardless of both the historic and current bad blood -- that MLB and the Players Association are going to shut down the game this year over player compensation.” Sherman: “That would be so shoot-yourself-in-the-brain, assure-the-negative-first-line-in-your obituary stupid that not even these two hostile sides can navigate there.” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark and their key advisors “must lock themselves in a virtual meeting space and not come out until they have found the face-saving mechanisms out of their locked-in rhetoric” (N.Y. POST, 5/11). WFAN's Gregg Giannotti said, “You’re telling me, fresh off of one of the biggest cheating scandals in the history of the league, we’re now going to come back and have a players strike during a pandemic when we are seeing unprecedented unemployment throughout the country? These guys are going to say we’re not playing for this amount of money? That is about as bad of a look as you could possibly have right now” (“Boomer & Gio,” WFAN-AM, 5/11). However, in Massachusetts, Chris Mason wrote, “Might be time to grab that sword and shield; this battle feels inevitable” (MASSLIVE.com, 5/10).

DRAFT DOWNSIZING: In Boston, Peter Abraham reported MLB will "hold a five-round amateur draft on June 10, a cost-cutting measure because of the coronavirus pandemic that could lead to long-term changes" to the sport. Multiple reports indicate that signing bonuses will be "at the same levels" as '19, though any undrafted free agents "will be limited to a bonus of $20,000." Abraham noted a March agreement with the MLBPA "left open the possibility of a 10-round draft." But the sides "could not come to an agreement on bonus limits." The cutdown will "reportedly save teams" $30M (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/9). The POST's Sherman wrote the measure is the "latest example" of MLB and the union being "unable to work well together." Agents believe that baseball operations departments "very much wanted the 10-round draft, but that a bloc of owners wanted the financial savings -- believed to average about $1 million per team -- of a five-round draft as franchises deal with so much lost revenue inflicted by the coronavirus" (N.Y. POST, 5/9). In N.Y., Dennis Young wrote under the header, "MLB Draft Cut From 40 Rounds To Five In Absurd Cash Grab By Owners" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/9).