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Volume 26 No. 181
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MLB, Union Take First Step On Return, But Economics Not Discussed

The league and MLBPA addressed issues such as the timing and logistics of a second Spring Training
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The league and MLBPA addressed issues such as the timing and logistics of a second Spring Training
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The league and MLBPA addressed issues such as the timing and logistics of a second Spring Training
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A multihour meeting between MLB and the MLBPA yesterday was the "first step in addressing the complex issues facing a restart for the sport amid the coronavirus pandemic, though the discussion didn't involve any economic components pertaining to player compensation," according to sources cited by Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com. Items addressed included "timing and logistics for a second spring training, potential rule changes, roster sizes and transaction rules" and a "good bulk of the meeting revolved around COVID-19 testing protocols, including contact tracing and response procedures in case of positive tests." Also addressed were "ballpark access procedures moving forward, as well as health and safety issues away from the ballpark" (ESPN.com, 5/12).

MEETING DETAILS: The AP's Ronald Blum cites sources as saying that the meeting "lasted between three and four hours," as MLB officials "showed slides during the meeting and the union delegation, which included players, caucused and asked questions." League officials "explained how they would use a lab in Utah to give the sport its own testing ability." They also "expressed concern about a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall and their worries it could force cancellation of the postseason" (AP, 5/13). In Boston, Peter Abraham reports while there is "no formal deadline to reach an agreement, the initial proposal is for spring training to resume in June for approximately three weeks" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/13). In N.Y., Joel Sherman reports for now, both sides are "portraying inflexibility" on the revenue-sharing issue. Whether that is "rhetoric or entrenched positions that can’t be overcome will be revealed in the coming weeks" (N.Y. POST, 5/13).

NEXT STEPS: THE ATHLETIC's Ken Rosenthal cites sources as saying that MLB "soon plans to present the union with an 80-page document outlining potential health and safety protocols." The document is "expected to cover a wide range of topics, including testing, procedures for the possibility a player or staff member becomes ill and guidelines for clubhouses, hotels and transportation." The protocols will be "subject to union input and approval." Once the MLBPA receives the league’s document on health and safety, it "likely will need time to digest the plan and prepare a response" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/12).

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? On Long Island, David Lennon writes the "good news" about yesterday is that MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark at least "took the call" from the league. One would have "half-expected Clark to just text" MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "with a 'See you in '21.'" Lennon: "We're lucky it didn't go down like that." As long as the two sides are talking, there "remains a chance of us seeing real, live baseball again" (NEWSDAY, 5/13). But in Providence, Bill Koch writes for MLB, strikes and lockouts were the "norm for decades," and it "feels like we're building toward another flashpoint this week" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 5/13). In Chicago, Daryl Van Schouwen writes the "last thing baseball's image needs is a squabble between the two sides, but that's what we're probably going to get" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/13).

POINT, COUNTERPOINT: In Houston, Brian Smith writes, "At least MLB and its billionaire owners presented a plan to bring baseball back to life in time for July 4." Clark instead "opted for optics and couldn't have made the union initially appear any worse." Clark "sounded like just another Scott Boras, yelling for more, more, more when millions of everyday Americans are suddenly struggling with less" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/13). But the CHRONICLE's Jerome Solomon writes if a "financial hit must be suffered, I’d lay that on the owners," as their "crying about financial woes in this situation draws little sympathy from this corner." Whatever owners lose this season, they will "get out of your pockets down the road" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/13).