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MLB, players’ union talking 60-game season, full pay: report

Major League Baseball has made a fourth proposal to the players’ union aimed at starting the pandemic-delayed season, a person with knowledge of the proposal said Wednesday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

Another person familiar with the session said baseball commissioner Rob Manfred met with players’ union head Tony Clark in Arizona in an attempt to restart talks on the delayed season. The person who disclosed the meeting also spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

Clark has homes in the Phoenix area and in New Jersey, and he has been in Arizona since spring training was cut short on March 12. The meeting Monday was called at Manfred’s request, the person with knowledge of the meeting said.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported the offer on the table from owners is to play a 60-game regular season starting July 19 with a full prorated portion of individual player salaries. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported players see a “pathway to a deal.”

The division between owners and players appears to be growing through public negotiating tactics and modest proposals. Clark and the union broke off negotiations on Saturday and ultimately asked Manfred to use his power as commissioner to set the outline of the season, including the number of games and when the playoffs would end. The statement from Clark prompted players to launch a social media campaign of which the gist was “Tell us when and where” the season will begin.

‘The country needs baseball’

Manfred is pushing to play the season according to multiple franchise owners and decision-makers, who’ve talked about the challenges facing baseball on the record. Whether he has enough support from owners to put players on the field for games that won’t likely include fans in attendance is another matter.

Boston Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said Tuesday in a NESN interview that “No one wants to play baseball more than Rob. … Nobody is more dedicated to serving the game than Rob. He’s been working in baseball, working with the owners, the front offices for decades. This is something that is critical and both sides need to talk and get to a place where we can get the game back on the field.

“But as you heard [Monday] night, that’s very, very difficult to do without a lot of dialogue. So I’m very hopeful on behalf of our fans and everyone in our front office that the dialogue picks up and the two sides are able to talk and get to a place where we can start playing again. The country needs baseball and we’re ready to go at Fenway Park.”

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported “at least eight” owners are against playing the 2020 season.

Manfred needs approval of 22 of baseball’s 30 owners to resume the season.

Union cut off talks Saturday

The union has made two proposals to start the season, and the sides remain about $1 billion apart in guaranteed salary. Players originally were set to earn $4 billion in salaries before the coronavirus outbreak began.

The union cut off talks Saturday, a day after MLB’s last proposal, and said additional negotiations were futile. Players told MLB to unilaterally set the schedule but Manfred said MLB would not while there was a threat of a grievance.

The sides reached a deal on March 26 in which players agreed to prorated salaries, part of an agreement that included a guarantee of service time even if no games are played this year.

Teams say they need more pay cuts to afford to play in empty ballparks. Players say they will not accept additional salary reductions.

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