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Rays troll Bryce Harper with walk-up music at Tropicana Field

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USA TODAY Sports

Rays troll Bryce Harper with walk-up music at Tropicana Field

Rumors have been flying since before this season began about where Bryce Harper will end up when he becomes a free agent this fall. 

So, when the Nats took on the Rays Tuesday afternoon at Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay decided to have some fun with the Harper gossip. The team alternated between playing "New York, New York" and "Chicago" when Harper stepped up to the plate.

One of the most prominent speculations has been that Harper will go to the Yankees. Bryce has admitted the team was his favorite growing up, and his jersey No. 34 is a nod to Mickey Mantle's No. 7. The Cubs have also been tossed around as a potential landing spot for the right-fielder.

The Rays were no-hitting the Nats until the sixth inning when Harper doubled off Nathan Eovaldi with two outs. The Nationals dropped the game 1-0, but at least Harper didn't let his team go down hitless.

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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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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