Manfred joins us, MLB lockdown talks appear to be gaining momentum

JUPITER, Fla. — Baseball players and owners took a first step toward Opening Day recovery, closing in on an agreement Friday on an amateur draft lottery during lockdown negotiations that included a surprise meet in one-on-one between commissioner Rob Manfred and union leader Tony Clark.

Although a deal on the draft has not been reached, talks gained momentum for the first time as Major League Baseball neared Monday’s deadline for a deal that would preserve the opening day on March 31 and a schedule of 162 games.

Talks will continue on Saturday, the 87th day of baseball’s first work stoppage since 1995. The parties remain far apart on important issues of thresholds and tax rates of competitive balance, eligibility for arbitration salary, the size of a bonus pool for pre-arbitration. -eligible players and minimum wage.

In another sign of the disruption caused by baseball’s ninth work stoppage, MLB canceled three more days of spring training games through March 7. Exhibition games were scheduled to start on Saturday.

But for the first time this week, both sides expressed a sense of having moved in a positive direction.

Manfred had a meeting with Clark in June 2020 during the pandemic reboot talks which produced disagreement over what happened and sparked a grievance still pending for the duration of the season.

Manfred had not participated in the negotiations since the first session of those talks in April. He has a home in the area and had been in the background at the ballpark for the first four days of this week, speaking with management officials.

The players’ association didn’t know he was in the area, and Manfred surprised the union on Friday when he requested a one-on-one meeting with Clark.

Manfred then made the short walk from the offices near home plate where management officials had gathered, crossed the small alley behind the right-field foul post, and entered the building containing the practice club of Cardinals spring, where the players had gathered. He came back about 20 minutes later.

The day included three trading sessions, a record for any day of the week.

In an effort to address the union’s assertion that teams give up winning in an effort to get a top pick in the amateur draft, MLB had proposed that top picks be determined by a lottery, as the NBA began in 1985 and the NHL. a decade later.

MLB proposed that the top four picks be determined by a lottery in which teams with the lowest three winning percentages would have the best chance of getting the top pick. The union demanded that the first seven selections be sorted by lot.

The parties exchanged proposals on Friday on the number of lottery picks, adjustments and penalties, moving closer to an agreement on the format. For the first time in months of negotiations, there were immediate back-and-forths: MLB made a proposal, the union caucused and fought back, and management is due to respond Saturday.

Discussions also touched on other areas and were described as lively and at times emotional.

The management delegation included Yankees general partner Hal Steinbrenner, Colorado CEO Dick Monfort, deputy commissioner Dan Halem and executive vice president Morgan Sword.

Clark managed players that included Max Scherzer, Andrew Miller and Zack Britton of the union’s eight-man executive sub-committee.

The players did not accept Monday as the deadline and suggested that any missed games could be made up through doubleheaders, a method MLB said it would not accept.

Once Monday passed, the length of the schedule would become another issue in the dispute, along with the possible loss of pay and time on duty.

The union told MLB that if games are missed and wages are lost, clubs shouldn’t expect players to accept management’s proposals to extend the playoffs and allow ads on uniforms and helmets.

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