Momentum may be building toward 2020 MLB season

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Just when it seemed MLB was gone, the odds of a season increased dramatically Wednesday afternoon.

Commissioner Rob Manfred and Players Association executive director Tony Clark met face-to-face in Arizona on Tuesday, a meeting that seems to have bridged the gap between parties and ignited hope of a season.

MLB reportedly delivered its latest proposal to the union, one that won’t be the final product but significantly moves the sides toward middle ground. The proposal is widely reported (first by ESPN’s Buster Olney) to be for 60 games, with a regular season that concludes Sept. 27.

Manfred released a statement Wednesday:

“At my request, Tony Clark and I met for several hours yesterday in Phoenix. We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement and subject to conversations with our respective constituents.

“I summarized that framework numerous times in the meeting and sent Tony a written summary today. Consistent with our conversations yesterday, I am encouraging the Clubs to move forward and I trust Tony is doing the same.”

The league’s offer includes an opening-day date of July 19 or 20, players receiving full prorated salaries, expanded playoffs this season and next (16-team field), and the union waiving any possible grievances, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

While the union is expected to counter with more games, the development has made for unprecedented optimism. Just two days ago, Manfred expressed waning confidence there would be a season during an ESPN interview; that came less than a week after the commissioner proclaimed a “100 percent” chance of baseball. In between his remarks, the union had opted against any further negotiating after declining MLB’s fourth proposal.

The hours and days following included extensive backlash, most of which was targeted at owners for an inability to revive MLB while other sports had formulated return plans. MLB, already facing enough modern problems, could potentially miss 18 months while also staring at a lockout when the collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021.

An agreement isn’t imminent, but momentum is building toward a return. Players have stood their ground on receiving full prorated pay, which the owners have agreed to under this new proposal. The waiving of a grievance is critical, as the union was planning to file one whenever Manfred implemented a season without an agreement. The owners would then be facing possible losses exceeding a billion if they lost in court.

These public negotiations finally provided a day of positive developments. Baseball isn’t back yet, but there’s reason to be encouraged, which is more than anyone could say 48 hours ago.

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