Following an Arizona face-to-face meeting between MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the player association of Tony Clark chiefs, sources on both sides confirm a deal is near, putting an end to a phenomenal deadlock work.
While some details still need to be worked out – a point cautioned by both parties on Wednesday, a usable framework is in place for a season to start as early as July 19.
Like everything in the world of sport, right now, the problem is the health and safety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is not getting worse in the meantime. But the model under discussion includes a season in the 65-game beach, though the league’s latest leak proposal on Wednesday is at 60.
Sources say the rest of the MLB proposal includes one from the start of the season, on July 19 or 20, with players getting a full prorated salary, eliminating a major hurdle. Thus, the players will waive their right to a grievance on the conditions of return to work.
The proposed league also includes expanded playoffs, both this season and in 2021, allowing homeowners to capitalize on the post-season turnover. An enlargement of the tournament to 16 teams (as has been discussed) would certainly add a little short-term excitement to the campaign abstract and add unlikely contenders.
While the MLBPA issued a statement Wednesday afternoon warning that an agreement has not yet been made, a Manfred release makes it easy to create the most optimism since this mess started.
“At my request, Tony Clark and I met for several hours (Tuesday in Phoenix),” Manfred said in a statement. “We left the meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement, and subject to conversations with our respective constituents.
“Consistent with our conversations, I am encouraging clubs to go ahead and I trust Tony is doing the same.”
Well documented and historically acrimonious between the two sides, all optimism should be cautious at this point, but the amount of movement that took place in a face-to-face meeting seems to be real.
Notably, for the first time the MLB and the owners agreed to pay full in proportion to the contracts, the stumbling block. The more mad the games are from the point of view of players, who are unlikely to settle for 60.
But with the July 19 proposal early, the league is proposing 60 games in 70 days, which certainly leaves some leeway to come up with a more attractive 65-66 games. The schedule will be preceded by a “training spring” lasting approximately three weeks.
Under the previously suggested formats, the season is expected to have three to 10 team geographic divisions. The Toronto Blue Jays, for example, would be in a division made up of AL and NL East opponents.
Among the details for the only Canadian team is where the Jays will play. General manager Ross Atkins said last week that the team is still hoping games can be played at the Rogers Center, although the most viable options earlier in the season would include the spring training team at home in Dunedin, Buffalo (home of triple A, Bisons) or sharing a home with the Tampa Rays at Tropicana Field.