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Report: Several MLB players have tested positive for COVID-19

Report: Several MLB players have tested positive for COVID-19

Commissioner Rob Manfred says there might be no major league season after a breakdown in talks between teams and the union on how to split up money in a season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The league also said several players have tested positive for COVID-19.

Two days after union head Tony Clark declared additional negotiations futile, the commissioner's office notified the players' association on Monday that it will not proceed with a schedule unless the threat of legal action by the union is resolved.

These were just the latest escalating volleys in a sport viewing disagreements over starting the season as a preliminary battle ahead of bargaining to replace the labor contract that expires on Dec. 1, 2021.

“It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it,” Manfred said during an appearance on ESPN that included the heads of the other major U.S. professional leagues. “It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans.”

Spring training was stopped because of the pandemic on March 12, two weeks before opening day, and the sides reached an agreement on March 26 on how to revise their labor deal to account for the virus.

Since then, the hostility has escalated to 1990s levels as the sides exchanged offers. MLB claims teams can't afford to play without fans and pay the prorated salaries called for in the March deal, which included a provision for “good-faith” negotiations over the possibility of games in empty ballparks or neutral sites.

“The proliferation of COVID-19 outbreaks around the country over the last week, and the fact that we already know of several 40-man roster players and staff who have tested positive, has increased the risks associated with commencing spring training in the next few weeks,” Halem wrote in his letter to Meyer, which was obtained by the AP.

Halem sent Meyer a letter with a sarcastic tone Friday accompanying MLB's latest offer, and Meyer responded with a hostile tone Saturday as the sides memorialized positions ahead of a possible grievance before the panel chaired by independent arbitrator Mark Irvings. Halem's letter Monday asked the union for many clarifications of its positions.

“I note that both the NBA and NHL, two leagues which you repeatedly reference in your letter, do not intend to resume play until about Aug. 1, and both intend to resume play at a limited number of sites with a quarantine approach,” Halem wrote. “Please let us know the association’s views on quarantining players in league-approved hotels (like the NBA’s Disney World model) when they are not at the ballpark if conditions worsen over the next few weeks.”

Clark had issued a statement Saturday that told MLB: “It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.” The union then said it might file a grievance seeking additional economic documents and money damages that could total $1 billion or more.

“Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season," Clark said in a statement Monday.

“This latest threat is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning,” Clark added. "This has always been about extracting additional pay cuts from players and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign.”

Manfred said ahead of last week’s amateur draft that the chance of a season was "100%."

"I can tell you unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year," he said on ESPN's draft broadcast.

He reversed his position Monday.

“I’m not confident. I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue,” Manfred said on ESPN. “The owners are 100% committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100% certain that’s going to happen.”

Halem asked the union for permission to go ahead with the season.

RELATED: ROB MANFRED UNSURE ABOUT 2020 SEASON

MLB has made three economic offers, the last as part a 72-game schedule beginning July 14 and increasing the total to 80% if the postseason is completed.

Players previously offered two proposals, holding their position that beyond the prorated salaries for 2020 that they had agreed to in

That deal called for $170 million in salary advances and a guarantee of service time credit if no games are played this year.

Manfred had threatened a shorter schedule, perhaps of about 50 games. The union could respond by filing a grievance, arguing players should be paid for the season of 119 games they initially proposed. The union's first plan would result in salaries of nearly $3 billion.

Players are angry following five years of flat salaries, a lost grievance claiming the Chicago Cubs manipulated the service time of star third baseman Kris Bryant in violation of the labor contract and allegations several teams did not properly use revenue sharing proceeds, which the union called “tanking.”

Players hope to see documents detailing regional sports networks' agreements with teams, financial interests of MLB owners in RSNs and real estate ventures adjacent to ballparks, plus MLB affiliated companies such as the MLB Network, MLB Advanced Media and BAM Tech. During a grievance, they would ask Irvings to order document production.

In their March agreement, the sides vowed to “work in good faith to as soon as is practicable commence, play, and complete the fullest 2020 championship season and post-season that is economically feasible, consistent with” a series of provisions.

Absent Manfred's consent, the agreement said, the season would not begin unless there were no travel restrictions in the U.S. and Canada impacting play, no restrictions on mass gatherings at all 30 regular-season ballparks and no health or safety risks in playing in front of fans at the regular stadiums. But it also provided that the sides “will discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.”

MLB told the union it would for each regular season game played with no gate revenue and does not want to extend the regular season past Sept. 27 because it fears a second wave of the coronavirus could endanger the postseason, when $787 million of broadcast revenue is earned.

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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.

RELATED: NATS VS. ORIOLES SUSPENDED DUE TO EXCEPTION IN MLB RULE BOOK

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."

RELATED: NATS-O'S WAS SUSPENDED, NOT CANCELED, DUE TO AN EXCEPTION IN MLB'S RULE BOOK

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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