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MLB return: Latest gulf in player-league negotiations reinforces time is not on baseball’s side

MLB return: Latest gulf in player-league negotiations reinforces time is not on baseball’s side

While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman outlined the league’s pending return to the ice Tuesday, the news began to pop on social media. The baseball players’ union has balked at Major League Baseball’s follow-up proposal, the sides are far apart, and a lot of work remains.

Multiple reports provided the same damning news. Tuesday was previously targeted to deliver some progress since the league’s initial proposal of a 50-50 revenue split was a known non-starter in the players’ view. The second proposal apparently did little to bring the sides closer financially. A significant divide on health protocols also remains, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks.

The agreement reached in March -- when spring training stopped and the influence of coronavirus was being better understood -- took roughly two weeks. The climate then was comparatively jovial. Two sides who were long fighting each other realized they needed to be calm and focus on a swift deal to set basic parameters. So, they developed an agreement the players now feel is steadfast and owners feel is malleable.

Which brings the sides back together in late May. They are scrambling. The calendar is setting a crunch on both ends. The later the season starts, the longer it has to go to produce an amount of revenue the players find reasonable. The longer it has to go, the larger the chances it is compromised by a spike of the virus, the weather or unmanageable logistical hurdles. Last, the further the season stretches in 2020, the shorter the break between the end of the year and spring training in 2021.

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Bettman’s comments included a telling timeline. The NHL will not open training camps before July 1. That is when MLB thought it could begin playing games. The league is also using two hub cities for the resumption of what will be their version of the “playoffs” this year. Baseball is trying to play in all 30 host cities. Bettman said the NHL has not determined when the actual games will start because the league will be waiting to see how efforts to contain the virus will proceed. Baseball wants to be full steam ahead in five weeks.

And, remember spring training is a three-week minimum for the players. That’s four starts for starting pitchers. The players will deem that important because they are taking dual risks: they are worried about injury when running back to play; they are worried about their health as it relates to coronavirus.

Could an agreement be reached in the next 10 days, immediately starting cars and sending players onto flights? Yes. Could they be ready by July 1 or the July 4th weekend? Possibly. Is this over? Far from it.

But, is any of that likely? It seems less so after Tuesday.

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How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

How will MLB's new extra inning with a runner on second rule work strategically?

Major League Baseball is going to be bizarre in 2020. A 60-game schedule. The designated hitter in the National League. No fans.

But the change a lot of baseball fans might have the toughest getting used to is the tweak to extra innings. Each team will begin each extra inning with a man on second base. The crew from the Nationals Talk podcast had differing opinions on the new rule.

“I absolutely love it,” NBC Sports Washington's Nick Ashooh said.

Team reporter Todd Dybas did not agree.

“The rule is dumb. It goes against everything that baseball is about.”

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Chase Hughes broke the tie. “I’m a no on the rule too. I’m with Todd.”

What about the strategy of starting with a man on second base? Could team's exploit or alter the ending of the previous frame to set up a new inning? 

The rule states: “The runner placed on second base at the start of each half-inning shall be the player (or a substitute for such player) in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter.”

Dybas wondered if it would be wise to end the previous inning on purpose if a speedster is at the plate with two outs.

“Would it behoove [Giants'] Billy Hamilton to make the final out? So the next inning he would start at second base?” Hamilton is a career .242 hitting but has 299 stolen bases in 809 games played. 

RELATED: COULD MORE OPT-OUTS BE COMING? 

Frustration will also be inevitable. “I can’t wait to hear from the players on the first team to lose by that rule,” Hughes said. “What are they going to say?” 

2020 has already thrown us plenty of curveballs, the changes to baseball will just be a couple more the sports world will have to adjust to. 

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Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

Report: 6 Nationals among players MLB didn't test for COVID-19 before flight from Dominican Republic

One of two flights chartered by Major League Baseball from the Dominican Republic to Miami carried multiple players that tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in the U.S., The Washington Post reported Thursday evening. None of the more than 160 players and staff members were tested by MLB for the disease prior to flying.

Among the passengers on those flights—which flew out of Santo Domingo on July 1—were Nationals players Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Wander Suero and Fernando Abad as well as two of their prospects in Luis Garcia and Joan Adon. All six players are isolating in D.C. and one of them, The Post reported, tested positive for the coronavirus during intake screening July 2.

The Nationals announced Sunday that two players had tested positive upon arriving to D.C. and were in isolation. In addition to the six players who flew from the D.R., Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro and Roenis Elías were absent from practice at Nationals Park this week. Although Castro returned to the field Thursday, Washington has yet to give any updates on the remaining players not cleared for play.

RELATED: MIKE RIZZO SAYS ‘I COULDN’T LIVE WITH MYSELF IF WE WENT ON HAPHAZARDLY’

“We’re still waiting to hear about those other guys,” manager Davey Martinez said in a Zoom press conference Thursday. “But they’re working diligently, MLB and our medical staff, to get those guys cleared. Hopefully, we’ll get them soon.”

The lack of testing prior to those flights was a result of insufficient resources in the D.R. to accommodate the number of people who were to board, The Post reported. The news comes three days after the Nationals opted to cancel practice due to test results taking over 72 hours to come in. General manager Mike Rizzo issued a strong statement that afternoon stressing the importance of quick testing.

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“We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” Rizzo wrote. “We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families.  Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp.  Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab.  Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

MLB’s 2020 season is scheduled to begin July 23, when the Nationals are set to host the New York Yankees on Opening Night.

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