Tick, tick, tick.

A fifth straight day of negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association again failed to produce any meaningful movement toward a new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday.

The only significant development? Other than Hal Steinbrenner showing up for the face-to-face meetings in Jupiter, Florida, the two sides lurched one day closer to the possibility of a shortened regular season, as Monday is MLB’s deadline for an agreement capable of preserving Opening Day as scheduled on March 31.

The negotiating sessions will continue Friday at Roger Dean Stadium, the spring training home of the Cardinals and Marlins.

If a path exists to avert that regular-season disaster for baseball, neither MLB nor the union seems to be anywhere close to finding it. The exchange of multiple proposals during the past two weeks has been dismissed as woefully inadequate.

On Thursday, it was the union’s turn, and the players focused on service-time manipulation as well as the draft lottery, according to sources.

Both have been key concerns of the Players Association during these negotiations, but the two sides seem to be spending too much time dancing around the margins of what needs to be accomplished. And until the competitive balance tax is aggressively discussed, the blueprint for a new CBA will remain a distant hope.

Typically, the CBT is the last thing left on the table, given its sizable economic impact on the sport and the sensitive nature of the subject. To this point, MLB included a framework for a new CBT in the 130-page proposal delivered to the union on Feb. 19, with a payroll tier that begins at $214 million for the first two years and increases to $222 million by the fifth and final year of the deal. The tax rates for exceeding those tiers are 50%, 75% and 100%.

The Players Association, however, has stuck to $245 million, with the lower tax rates from the expired CBA and no draft pick penalties. That proposal was handed over before the lockout took effect on Dec. 2.

If MLB thought Wednesday’s veiled threat of canceled games and lost salary would pressure the players, it seemed to be a non-factor, as the two sides had one of the week’s shorter sessions. Rob Manfred’s strategy of locking out the players and shutting down the sport certainly hasn’t helped accelerate the deal-making process. Establishing Monday as a hard deadline to save the start of the regular season — and refusing to make up any lost games — might only stiffen the players’ resolve, especially given the contentious relationship between the two sides.

Thursday marked the 85th day of MLB’s lockout, the second-longest work stoppage in the sport’s history.

The first week of spring training games already has been canceled, and MLB soon is expected to stretch that beyond March 5, which had been the earliest date for the exhibition schedule to resume. It is unclear how long baseball would need to open camps in Florida and Arizona once an agreement is reached, and a dozen or so top free agents remain available, which will create a signing frenzy in the days immediately following a new CBA.

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