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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred confident an agreement with players will be reached

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred confident an agreement with players will be reached

Though MLB and the players' association are in the midst of a battle regarding 2020 player pay, commissioner Rob Manfred is confident the sides will reach an agreement, which would clear a major hurdle to having a 2020 season.

"Me personally, I have great confidence that we'll reach an agreement with the players' association — both that it's safe to come back to work and work out the economic issues that need to be resolved," Manfred said on a CNN town hall Thursday night.

MLB owners approved a plan that would have the season begin in early July, provided enough testing is in place and public health officials have signed off on the parameters being sufficiently safe. There is still, however, the issue of player pay. The initial agreement guaranteed players a full year of service time, 4% of their 2020 salaries through the end of May, and then the prorated amount of their salary based on the number of games played this season. 

However, owners have sought a further reduction of the prorated pay because of the steep financial losses of playing out a season without fans in the stands. Ticket sales accounted for approximately $4-5 billion last season.

The players' association, led by executive director Tony Clark, has countered that the owners are taking advantage of the global pandemic to institute a salary cap with a proposed 50-50 revenue split.

"Playing in empty stadiums is not a great deal for us economically, but our owners are committed to doing that because they feel it's important that the game be back on the field, and that the game be a sign of a beginning to return to normalcy to American life the way we've always enjoyed it," Manfred said. "We're a big business, but we're a seasonal business, and unfortunately, this crisis began at kind of the low point in terms of us for revenue — we hadn't quite started our season yet. And if we don't play a season, the losses for the owners could approach $4 billion."

One of the major obstacles to playing out a season is having enough testing in place. Manfred on Thursday laid out the league's plans, which would include testing players and other baseball personnel multiple times per week. Anyone who shows coronavirus symptoms would be given more rapid testing. Manfred said the turnaround time is 24 hours. If you test positive, you will be quarantined until you test negative twice.

"Our experts are advising us that we don't need a 14-day quarantine," Manfred said. "What we will do is, the positive individual will be removed from the rest of the group. There will be a quarantine arrangement in each facility and in each city, and we'll do contact tracing for the individuals that we believe there was contact with, and we will do point-of-care testing for those individuals, to minimize the likelihood that there's been a spread.

"We hope that we will be able to convince the vast majority of our players that it's safe to return to work. The protocols for returning to play, the health-related protocols, are about 80 pages in length. They're extraordinarily detailed.

"So we hope that we'll be able to convince them that it's safe. At the end of the day, however, if there's a player with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we would never try to force them to come back to work. They can wait until they feel they're ready to come."

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

On today's Phillies Talk podcast, Jim Salisbury and I discussed what Spring Training II could look like amid Jim's report that the Phillies will likely get to stay home and train in South Philadelphia.

• Benefits of having camp at home.

• Who could Phillies play in Spring Training II?

• What happens to the minor-leaguers? Will there even be a minor-league season?

• Just how big could regular-season rosters get?

• Spencer Howard will likely put pressure on Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez.

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