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Volume 27 No. 8
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MLB, MLBPA Remain Far Apart As Window To Restart Season Shrinks

There remains "no outward signs" MLB and the MLBPA are "moving toward each other in time to begin the regular season with the optimum start" on July 4 weekend, according to Joel Sherman of the N.Y. POST. The union on Thursday night released a statement that said that its exec board and more than 100 players "talked via conference call and recommitted to wanting to play this year." But it also noted that players will not play "under the key demand of owners that they take a pay cut from their prorated salaries for games played." All of this "imperils the most ideal restart date of the July 4 weekend, when MLB would be able to best try to renew its historic place as the national pastime." But at this point, the sides "publicly remain entrenched in positions that not only threaten the best start time, but maybe the whole season" (N.Y. POST, 6/5). One player agent said that MLB "made it easy for players to take a firm position -- he called it 'low-hanging fruit' -- in part because it has not put forth another offer." The agent said, "If they want to unilaterally impose this bastard season, then so be it. And that will be what's expected. By doing that, they are galvanizing the union. The problem here is distrust" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/4).

SHRINKING WINDOW: On Long Island, David Lennon notes MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark "maintains the topic of player compensation is closed, having been settled by the March agreement." So for now that "appears to be a dead end MLB insists that it needs to wrap up the entire season, including playoffs, by the end of October, in order to avoid a second wave of coronavirus wiping out the most profitable part of the schedule" (NEWSDAY, 6/5). USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques writes the window for an MLB season restart "still remains," but the opening is "getting quite narrow" (USA TODAY, 6/5). Smith College professor of economics Andrew Zimbalist said that baseball "could face a unique challenge" compared to the other sports if a season "isn't played because decades-long animus between owners and players cause these negotiations to break down." Zimbalist pointed to what happened after the '94-95 strike and lockout, when the "full-season attendance equivalent in the 1995 return season" represented more than a 20% decline from '93 (NBCSPORTSCHICAGO.com, 6/3).

THE REAL ISSUE: ESPN's Jeff Passan said the "power really is more about 2021 when the current collective bargaining agreement is up," and the MLBPA "wants to show no mercy on that after getting pushed around for years." Passan: "The distress is really built into baseball, it’s a generational thing. That’s not going to be fixed anytime soon. The real area where they can and should make progress is with the money" ("Get Up," ESPN, 6/4).

MISSING OUT ON CENTER STAGE: NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer said the situation between MLB and the MLBPA is “classic baseball throughout history.” They are "going to get a deal done, and then they’ll kind of go right back into the mix with everybody else playing." But they "won't have the centerstage to themselves like they could have if they had been more aggressive with this.” Baseball "may have just shot itself in the foot again.” NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson said it is a “bunch of people fighting over a pile of money.” If the “original intent of doing this for the greater good in a safe fashion was legitimate, they would have already reached agreement by now” (“SportsTalk Live,” NBC Sports Chicago, 6/4).

ON THE OWNERS? THE ATHLETIC's Jeff Schultz wrote there is a "tendency in professional sports when collective bargaining talks break down for the general public to view team owners as levelheaded businessmen who are just looking out" for the fans. Baseball has an "opportunity to finally move toward starting," as other sports are "moving forward with plans to open/reopen." But MLB owners are "whining" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/4).