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MLB Players Association counters league's 60-game proposal with a 70-game season

In this Feb. 19, 2017, file photo, Major

In this Feb. 19, 2017, file photo, Major League Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark, answers questions at a news conference in Phoenix.  Credit: AP/Morry Gash

As the pace of baseball restart talks between MLB and the players’ union has quickened this week, so too has the pace of bickering.

The Players Association submitted to the league Thursday a counterproposal for a 70-game season at full prorated salaries for players, 10 games more than MLB suggested Wednesday. That pitch also included expanded playoffs for this year and next. “We believe this offer represents the basis for an agreement on resumption of play,” PA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement Thursday afternoon, which confirmed several details of the union’s new plan.

Then the rhetoric really reramped up. Less than an hour after his first statement, Clark issued a second, which pushed back on the idea that his in-person meeting with commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday resulted in an agreement on the number of games or any other detail in a would-be season.

“In my discussions with Rob in Arizona we explored a potential pro rata framework, but I made clear repeatedly in that meeting and after it that there were a number of significant issues with what he proposed, in particular the number of games,” Clark wrote. “It is unequivocally false to suggest that any tentative agreement or other agreement was reached in that meeting.

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“In fact, in conversations within the last 24 hours, Rob invited a counterproposal for more games that he would take back to the owners. We submitted that counterproposal today.”

Manfred disagreed with Clark’s disagreement.

“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,” Manfred told USA Today.

What is the difference between 60 and 70 games? About a quarter-billion dollars in player salary, or less than $8.5 million per team. That is less than the cost of one season of Jeurys Familia, to use a Mets example, or Brett Gardner, to use a Yankees one.

An extra 10 games also would push the end of the season to Sept. 30, three days after MLB’s proposed date. The league is wary of playing deeper into the calendar because of fears of a hypothetical second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The union’s proposal also has teams playing 70 games in 74 days, which would mean too few off days or too many doubleheaders or both, in MLB’s view.

The PA’s proposal also includes, according to sources:

* Opening Day on July 19

* spring training beginning June 26-28, which is next weekend

* planning for a neutral site/quarantine setup for the World Series  

* $50 million in playoff bonuses* a 50/50 split of new postseason TV revenues next year

* a mutual waiving of the sides’ rights to file a grievance

* adding the DH to the NL for 2020-21, as they have agreed on throughout this process

* allowing teams to sell advertising space on jerseys.

The recent urgency came as both sides realized they were running out of time to agree on even a short season. Manfred said on Monday that he was “not confident” a season would start, then asked for and received an in-person meeting with Clark on Tuesday. That led to MLB’s 60-game proposal Wednesday. And now the players ask for 70 games instead.

The fallback option, if the league and the union do not come to an agreement, remains Manfred unilaterally ordering a season of whatever length he chooses. The expectation has been for weeks that, if it came to it, he would settle for around 50 games.

"We’re at the same place,” Manfred told USA Today of this week’s developments. “We want to play. We want to reach an agreement … We're doing everything necessary to find a way to play, hopefully by agreement.”

What's the Difference?

MLB Union

Length of Season 60 games 70 games

Salaries $1.48B $1.73B

Postseason pool $25M $50M

End date Sept. 27 Sept. 30

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