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MLB return: Union tries to force owners’ hand after swiftly rejecting latest offer

MLB return: Union tries to force owners’ hand after swiftly rejecting latest offer

The Major League Baseball Players Association did not counter the league’s latest proposal Saturday. They punted it into the neighbor’s yard.

The MLBPA has now reached the point of daring the league to impose a 50-game season for full prorated pay. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred threatened to force such a move -- it appears both sides think he would be within his rights based on an agreement reached in March -- earlier in the week. Saturday, the union’s ambitious response to the league’s latest offer ostensibly told him, “Go ahead.”

Here is the statement from MLBPA executive director Tony Clark:

“Players want to play. It’s who we are and what we do.

“Since March, the Association has made it clear that our No. 1 focus is playing the fullest season possible, as soon as possible, as safely as possible. Players agreed to billions in monetary concessions as a means to that end, and in the face of repeated media leaks and misdirection we made additional proposals to inject new revenues into the industry -- proposals that would benefit the owners, players, broadcast partners, and fans alike.

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“It’s now become apparent that these efforts have fallen upon deaf ears. In recent days, owners have decried the supposed unprofitability of owning a baseball team and the Commissioner has repeatedly threatened to schedule a dramatically shortened season unless players agree to hundreds of millions in further concessions. Our response has been consistent that such concessions are unwarranted, would be fundamentally unfair to players, and that our sport deserves the fullest 2020 season possible. These remain our positions today, particularly in light of new reports regarding MLB’s national television rights -- information we requested from the league weeks ago but were never provided.

“As a result, it unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”

So, let’s unpack that statement and the subsequent status of this petulant finger-pointing extravaganza.

First, to the players’ reaction to the league’s last offer. They laughed out loud. Literally.

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Philadelphia outfielder Andrew McCutchen made a comparative skit on Friday then released it on Twitter. He posed it as the league and the players talking. In the skit, he promised a child juice if he “went potty” properly. The child executed the task, then McCutchen tried to pawn water off in lieu of the juice despite the prior agreement. This is where we are.

Pittsburgh pitcher Trevor Williams quote-tweeted a reporter’s statement that the league proposal for a 72-game season at 70 percent of the previously agreed upon prorated pay, would expire Sunday and commented, “It expired as soon as they hit send.”

On his Twitter account, Sean Doolittle again lamented the idea of health waivers in order to play.
 
The trio’s dissatisfaction was a harbinger of Saturday’s fist-shaking letter and, according to ESPN, a directive to answer for the league to answer by Monday. Not helping was a news break from the New York Post on Saturday that the league and Turner Sports had agreed upon a new billion-dollar broadcast deal to air the LCS and part of the playoffs. According to the Post, the annual cost to retain those rights went from $350 million to $500 million. The report only served to further raise the players’ hackles. So, Clark included another dig there.

Which means baseball moved closer to a start and a farcical state. A 50-game season will not provide an authentic champion or legitimate MVP or Cy Young winner. It will not do anything other than drop some pennies into pockets instead of none. And, it will probably convince certain key players not to bother.

This was never expected to be easy. Both sides carry disdain for each other built across years of battling. Little beyond a grand, and not forthcoming, gesture will quell their vitriol. However, this also was not expected to be this hard. Yet it has become so.

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Stephen Strasburg’s debut shows he still has a ways to go

Stephen Strasburg’s debut shows he still has a ways to go

WASHINGTON -- Elegant pitching took place in the top of the fourth inning Sunday when Anthony Santander led off the inning.

Stephen Strasburg threw him a 79-mph curveball for a called strike. An 87-mph changeup was a ball. Another changeup produced a swinging strike. A third consecutive changeup led to another swinging strike and an out.

Strasburg needed just 43 pitches to finish four innings in his season debut. The problem was he went to pitch the fifth -- and that his achy right hand still has mild issues.

He recorded one out, faded rapidly and was removed after allowing five sudden runs. The hook was too late. The Nationals fell behind, 5-0, and were on the verge of a weekend sweep at the hands of the Orioles and a troublesome 4-8 record before the game was suspended because of oddball circumstances with a malfunctioning tarp.

“You can look at the negative, or you can look at the positive,” Strasburg said. “I think there was a lot more positives. I'm just going to focus on that. Obviously command and execution wasn't very good there in the fifth. They just hit a bunch of singles and found the right spots. So they made me pay for it.”

Strasburg’s start came two weeks after he was supposed to be on the game mound for the first time in 2020. A right wrist impingement caused a nerve problem in his right hand, which led to pain in his thumb. All of the issues with the hand subsided after time off and treatment. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday. Sunday, “Seven Nation Army” poured out of the stadium speakers for the first time this season.

The first four innings showed a pitcher with lowered velocity, but exceptional command. In essence, Strasburg looked like himself. Plenty of curveballs, changeups and outs. Of his 69 pitches, 37 were curveballs or changeups.

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Javy Guerra quickly worked to warm up when Strasburg faltered in the fifth inning. The first out of the inning came on a 101.1-mph line drive from Dwight Smith Jr. It was a harbinger.

Austin Hays hit a line drive to right field. Chance Sisco hit a line drive to right field. Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard came up the dugout steps to head toward the mound because Strasburg shook his right hand. Strasburg waived them back to their spots, though there was an issue.

“To be honest, I felt it,” Strasburg said of his hand pain. “I don't know if it was necessarily like fatigue or just not having necessarily the stamina built up quite yet. But it's something where I don't think I'm doing any long-term harm on it. But it does have an impact on being able to feel the baseball and being able to commit to pitches. That's something I haven't quite figured out how to pitch through it yet, so I think the goal is to continue to get built up and get the pitch count up to where that won't be flaring up over the course of the start.”

He walked the next batter. Pitching coach Paul Menhart went to talk to him. This, presumably, is when Strasburg should have been removed from the game. He was left in.

Bryan Holaday singled. A run scored. Hanser Alberto doubled. Two runs scored. Santander singled. Two runs scored.

Guerre came in. Strasburg departed.

The good news is Strasburg finally made a start in 2020. And, Max Scherzer is expected to return to the mound on Tuesday in New York.

The bad news is 25 percent of Strasburg’s potential starts are over. Starting pitchers were only in line for 12 this year. He missed two, then failed in the fifth inning in what would have been his third start. That gives him nine to go -- if the season makes it to the end -- with a hand that isn’t quite right.

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Davey Martinez defends Nationals' grounds crew following tarp snafu

Davey Martinez defends Nationals' grounds crew following tarp snafu

Sunday's matchup between the Nationals and Orioles came to a halt in the sixth inning due to a brief rainstorm, but the game was delayed and eventually suspended after the grounds crew had multiple issues unraveling the tarp to cover the infield.

For much of the rainfall, the infield and pitcher's mound in Nationals Park were exposed. As the rain continued to fall, the dirt turned into slushy mud.

Despite the grounds crew's inability to properly cover the field, which ended up being the reason for the game's suspension, Nationals manager Davey Martinez refused to place blame on the crew.

"Feel bad for our grounds crew," Martinez said to reporters after the game was called off. "Personally, these guys, to me, are the best if not one of the best. Unfortunate that that happened."

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The whole situation was a perfect metaphor for 2020 as a whole, a year of chaos and unexpected twists and turns, mostly in a negative fashion.

While Sunday's game came to a finish prematurely, Martinez said all his team can do is keep moving forward and be ready to play the New York Mets on Monday at Citi Field.

"There’s going to be days when you don’t know what to expect. This is part of it," Martinez said. "So, we just got to keep moving on. At the end of the game, I told the guys, pack up, we’re going to New York. Get ready to play [Monday]. That’s all we can do."

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