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MLB and Players Association still have gap to bridge after latest proposals

The mood took a step backward Thursday, but not as far back as it was Monday.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The labor dispute between MLB and its players seemed to be making progress on Wednesday, but some of those good feelings dissipated on Thursday. Things are still better than they were Monday, when talks appeared to have broken off completely, but in a three-steps-forward, two-steps-back kind of way.

The latest development on Thursday involved the players submitting their counter-proposal, after receiving an offer from the owners the previous day. The players’ proposal includes 70 games, as well as the following details, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN:

- 70-game season from July 19-Sept. 30

- $50M in playoff bonuses

- 50/50 split of new postseason TV revenues in 2021

- Forgiveness of salary advance for Tier I-III players

- Universal DH

- Mutual waiver of grievance

See a more complete list of terms in this thread from insider Jon Heyman.

The previous offer from the owners included 60 games, and at this point both sides are including full prorated salaries for all games.

A gap of 60-70 is much smaller than the previous chasm between the two parties, which was once potentially as wide as 48-114 games, so in that sense progress has been made. The realities of the calendar have also helped narrow the divide, since the regular season must be done around the end of September — every day that goes by shrinks the ceiling of the schedule’s potential.

But even with the sides inching closer to a compromise, the owners are still playing hardball. Their response to the players’ latest offer was sharply negative, including “exasperation” and a “DOA” label, and another source telling Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that it wasn’t even forward progress but rather that “it went backwards.”

Another take, from Heyman: “Owners are not responding positively to players counterproposal. Owners believed they’d had a meeting of the minds and the number was 60 games.”

Much of Wednesday’ relatively good vibes sprung from the supposedly productive face-to-face meeting between commissioner Rob Manfred union head Tony Clark, but there seem to be conflicting accounts of just what went on there and how positive it was. In particular, Clark denied Manfred’s assertion that any agreement had been reached, merely a new exchange of proposals. “It is unequivocally false to suggest that any tentative agreement or other agreement was reached in that meeting,” Clark said in a statement Thursday.

Manfred’s response, via Heyman: “I don’t know what Tony and I were doing there for several hours going back and forth and making trades if we weren’t reaching an agreement.” And around and around we go.

The league and players are clearly closer in their terms than they were a week ago or a month ago, but it’s difficult to say how close they truly are. Manfred called the idea of 70 games “simply impossible” (via Heyman), and Andy Martino of SNY points out that the gap between the two current proposals is still nearly $300 million, which is “not a small difference.”

But the best news of all is that we appear to have walked back from the nuclear option of canceling the season entirely, reports Heyman:

Manfred; “We’re committed to doing whatever’s necessary to play, hopefully by agreement.” Amplifying that, word from owners seems to be that the second choice if they can’t reach agreement would be for the commissioner to implement the slightly shorter season, not to call it off.

Stay tuned for more as the drama continues to develop.