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MLB and Players Association resume talks; league makes new proposal for 2020 season

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Potential progress amid a bitter labor dispute

World Baseball Classic - Championship Round - Game 3 - USA v Puerto Rico

The bitter labor dispute between MLB and its Players Association may finally be seeing some progress toward a 2020 season.

Commissioner Rob Manfred and union chief Tony Clark had a “productive meeting face to face in Arizona,” first reported by Jon Heyman on Wednesday.

This promising news comes just days after the situation was looking as dire as ever. On Monday, Manfred reversed course on his recent 100% guarantee that a season would happen this year, expressing a sudden lack of confidence due to the chance of a legal grievance by the players to force more games. Both sides had dug in their heels for weeks and refused to budge on key economic issues, and talks appeared to be breaking down due to the stalemate.

However, the public backlash to Manfred’s comments was swift and immediate, with the media, fans, and players sharply criticizing his threat to cancel the season entirely. It appeared to be a bad-faith stall tactic to sneakily reduce the possible length of the season, something the owners want because they claim they’ll lose money for every game played at players’ full prorated salary but with no fans paying to attend.

Less than 48 hours later, the roller coaster has taken another turn, and Manfred was requesting a meeting with Clark. According to a statement by the commish, the two sides left their lengthy meeting with a “jointly developed framework,” though the MLBPA clarified that no agreement is in place.

Still, talking is better than not talking, and thus an improvement over where the situation was on Monday. The league even sent a new official proposal, and according to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic it features the following highlights:

• 60 games in 70 days

• Season starting July 19th/20th

• Full Prorated Salary

• Expanded Playoffs in 2020 and 2021

• Waiving of any potential grievance

A few more details:

The players still aren’t happy with 60 games, according to Nightengale, hoping for something closer to 70 (in the available 71 days), but that still represents a narrowing of the gap. The players had recently asked for 89 games, with the league suggesting around 50.

Will anything come of this latest development, or will the dialogue take another turn for the worse in the coming days? Will the threat of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the fall reemerge as an obstacle? We’ll find out, but the talks are looking better now than they did two days ago.