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Elephant Rumblings: Labor stalemate threatens to push back target date for 2020 opener

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Good morning, Athletics Nation!

As tensions rise around the country and the world, the situation at baseball’s negotiating table remains unchanged: MLB and its Players Association are at a stalemate. The league wants the players to take further cuts to their paychecks, after already agreeing to reduce their guaranteed full-season salaries to a per-game prorated portion. The players won’t budge on the salary issue, and also balk at the concept of playing only 40-50 games.

This deadlock has gone on so long that it now threatens to push back the original target date for a 2020 Opening Day. The hope had been that the baseball season could get going by July 4, but that would have required a deal to be made around now, which hasn’t happened.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic did not mince words in his appraisal of the situation:

So, forget July 4. Just tell us, oh squabbling parties, how low do you want to go? A 50-game season that would carry little credibility one year after the Washington Nationals started 19-31 in their first 50 games, only to win the World Series? A canceled season that would result in the sport going dark for nearly 18 months, diminishing income for all parties, wrecking players’ careers and deflating owners’ precious resale values in the process?

The bickering is unpopular enough in ordinary circumstances. Under the current circumstances – more than 100,000 dead from the coronavirus, more than 42 million filing for unemployment in the past three months, the nationwide anguish stemming from the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and police treatment of African-Americans – it is nothing short of appalling. And yet, neither MLB nor the Players Association seems to care that both parties resemble children sitting in separate corners with their toys, refusing to play with others.

A more likely scenario now has the season starting in August, suggests Rosenthal, as well as David Lennon of Newsday Sports. Lennon notes that would probably mean a campaign of around 50 games, based on the realities of the calendar and both sides’ disinterest in stretching beyond November — especially with the specter of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic possibly coming this fall/winter.

However, Monday morning brings a ray of hope. Karl Ravech of ESPN reports that MLB has made a new proposal to players, this time for a 76-game season with players earning 75% of their prorated salaries. That’s not necessarily any different than the previous offers, though, just framed in different terms, and the initial reaction is that the players aren’t happy about it.

Either way, the players have until Wednesday to respond, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN. Fortunately, the worst-case scenario doesn’t appear to be a canceled season, but rather a campaign of around 50 games, which the league has the power to mandate (at full pro-rated player salaries). So, while the news continues to be discouraging, the bottom line is that baseball will almost certainly be played this summer. The question is just how many games, and how much this toxic relationship will spill over into Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations when the current labor deal expires at the end of 2021.

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