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Stalled 2020 negotiations could hinder MLB's future, according to ESPN's Buster Olney

Stalled 2020 negotiations could hinder MLB's future, according to ESPN's Buster Olney

The feelings around a 2020 Major League Baseball season have slowly shifted from hopeful to cautiously optimistic to questionable as negotiations between the players and owners continue to hit road bumps.

Further salary cuts, player safety and the structure of the potential season are all factors that the two sides have different opinions on. Therefore, an agreement that would bring baseball back has continuously stalled. MLB Network's Jon Heyman explained that a "soft deadline" for a deal to be reached was June 1st. That now seems highly unlikely.

As players continue to voice their displeasure with the idea of losing a larger sum of their salary and owners stand pat, there is still a lot to be worked out if games are going to be played. Now, another concerning detail has emerged, as ESPN's Buster Olney wrote on Sunday that there is a faction of owners content with no baseball happening in 2020.

"Sources say there is a group of owners perfectly willing to shut down the season, to slash payroll costs and reduce losses, and the disparate views among the 30 teams have been reflected in the decisions to fire and furlough," he wrote.

Whether this mindset takes control or not, Major League Baseball is facing a major turning point both for the 2020 season and beyond. As Olney explains in his piece, the messy negotiations aren't just dangerous for the near future, but for years to come.

The focus has been on salvaging the current season, but what about losing next year? That's a reasonable thought according to Olney.

If the current season disappears, there's a reasonable expectation that tensions will carry over into the '21 season that will require a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the sides couldn't settle on an appropriate deal for a shortened season, things won't be any easier when the fate of their careers for years to come is now on the table. 

Olney explained that on the side of the players, the threat of a strike could be enacted if negotiations continue to sour. As for the owners, the thought of losing more money in the future on a new deal is enough for them to continue to not budge. 

The stalemate continuing on would completely shatter the league's ability to get things back to normal. That's bad for Major League Baseball internally, but the outside optics could be even worse. 

Olney notes that a lost season will obviously not go over well with supporters. Whether fans are supporting the player's request or believe pay cuts should be made, no one will be happy if they can't watch their team play in 2020. 

"If that doesn't happen -- if they can't agree on a deal to play in 2020 -- baseball will become a loathed presence on North America's sporting landscape, scorned by many fans," Olney wrote.

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But, the anger at the MLB may not end there. Even if 2021 does see baseball happen, drawn-out disputes to get to that point could push fans even further away.

"The labor fight could go on and on, and by the time it all plays out, it's impossible to know how many fans, feeling alienated or disgusted, will leave baseball behind once and for all," Olney added.

The frustration wouldn't just be at the owners, either. Though the players have reasons for their stances, it doesn't mean everyone is going to understand. Olney brought up former pitcher Tom Glavine's explanation to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution of how the current situation compared to the 1994-1995 strike. A largely economic-based stoppage, arguments over large sums of money didn't gain much support from the public, even if what the players wanted was fair.

"If it were to come down to an economic issue and that's the reason baseball didn't come back, you're looking at a situation similar to the strike of '94 and '95 as far as fans are concerned," Glavine said. "Even if the players were 100% justified in what they were complaining about, they're still going to look bad."

At this time, figuring out the 2020 MLB season is still of the utmost importance. Not all hope is lost, but a tough road lies ahead. Should things continue to sour, Olney notes that the future of baseball will face countless more problems.

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Nationals Scene and Heard: Team has a staff member opt-out

Nationals Scene and Heard: Team has a staff member opt-out

WASHINGTON -- Tuesday night was a quieter one in Nationals Park. Multiple members of the bullpen pitched against the same hitters over and over in what was less an intrasquad game and more drill work.

Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Javy Guerra, Aaron Barrett, Kevin Quackenbush and Ryne Harper pitched. Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Starlin Castro, Carter Kieboom and Eric Thames hit the most.

So, let’s get started with what was going on at the park:

-- Davey Martinez announced Tuesday night that batting practice pitcher Ali Modami has opted out of the 2020 season. Modami throws BP as a left-handed pitcher, but he’s also one of the fixtures at the park since joining the team in 2011.

His initial work was often with Bryce Harper in the batting cages before games. Modami always pitched to Harper, who did not take BP on the field. Overall, Modami threw a massive amount of pitches on a daily basis to whomever was ready to swing.

Modami added good-luck charm to his duties in 2019 when he was tasked with carrying the lineup card to home plate Friday, May 24, when the Nationals were 19-31 and staggered home from New York. They won -- in sloppy fashion -- that night. Modami went out the next day, and every day from then on.

You might also remember him as Brian Dozier’s celebratory transportation in the dugout. Modami is another part of a would-be normal situation who will not be around in 2020.

RELATED: WILL HARRIS DONS 'DISTRICT OF CHAMPIONS' T-SHIRT

-- A staffer who is back is hitting coach Kevin Long. Tuesday night was his first in Nationals Park since intake testing which forced him into quarantine.

“I know he had a mask on, but he was smiling ear to ear,” Martinez said. “He was dying to come back, and he’s back now. That’s one guy we got back. Hopefully, we get the rest of the guys back soon.”

-- Wednesday marks two weeks since intake testing began. The Nationals performed rolling testing the first week of “Summer Camp” and eight players have not been seen since. Among them are Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick.

Martinez said recently the team is following District-mandated protocols -- which are more stringent than the ones put in place by MLB’s operations manual -- when deciding who will come back.

If any of the players went into quarantine July 1 or 2, they are nearing the end of their 14-day stay in such isolation. So, are they close to joining the team just three days before the exhibition game and eight before the start of the season?

“Honestly, I don’t know that answer,” Martinez said. “Every morning I wake up, all I can do is ask my medical staff, ‘Are they coming?’ and they give me a no. Hopefully, one of these days when I wake up and ask if they are coming, they give me a yes. That’s all I can say about it. I do know we can’t wait to get all these guys back and be in full force. Hopefully it will be soon.”

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-- Harris worked a clean inning Tuesday. His recovery from a spring-time abdominal strain is complete and he often worked from a mound in Baton Rouge while everyone waited for the season to begin. Tuesday was the first time he’s faced hitters since the 2019 World Series.

“I’ve thrown a lot of bullpens,” Harris said. “The reps are there, as far as just pitching and my arm. It’s just now getting the feedback from hitters and basically the validation of, OK, my stuff is doing what I think it’s supposed to be doing and I’m getting the swings I’m accustomed to getting. I got to have a bigger sample size, but with all the technology today you can pretty much know where you’re at pretty quickly. So, me throwing [Tuesday], I’ll take a look at it [Wednesday] when I get here, make sure my stuff’s doing what I’m accustomed to it doing, if it’s not, figure it out before my next outing.”

-- A quick Harris quip about the idea he might be used frequently at the start of the season. “If you don’t want to throw 18 times in a month, give up some runs and you won’t throw 18 times in a month.”

-- The Nationals worked on preparation for the new extra-innings rule this season which will place a runner on second base to start the 10th inning. They immediately tried a “daylight” pickoff play -- when the shortstop cuts in behind a runner leading off second, the catcher signals there is space, or “daylight”, between the fielder and runner, and the pitcher pivots for a pickoff attempt. Tuesday was the first time they started to fold this into their daily routine.

-- Martinez said to-go meals are prepared at the end of workouts so players and staff can leave with food and go straight home.

“We’re making it a point for these guys, when you leave here, you’re pretty much going to a hotel or you’re going to your place that you have and you’re staying in,” Martinez said. “If we’re really going to do this and keep everybody safe, I tell these guys all the time, you can’t be messing around. You’ve got to really take it seriously. One, I don’t want to get sick. Two, I don’t want anybody else around here getting sick. You’ve got to be smart about everything we do.”

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Former Astros RP Will Harris dons ‘District of Champions’ T-shirt for Nationals press conference

Former Astros RP Will Harris dons ‘District of Champions’ T-shirt for Nationals press conference

Will Harris may have been the pitcher who served up Howie Kendrick’s go-ahead home run in Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, but he apparently isn’t holding any grudges about the outcome.

Harris, who spent five years with the Houston Astros before signing a three-year deal with the Nationals over the winter, sat down for a Zoom press conference Tuesday in what his first chance to speak with the media since Summer Camp began. He wore a T-shirt that was a bit surprising for a player who was on the losing end of Washington’s title run.

The shirt reads “District of Champions,” a nod to D.C. winning titles in MLB, NHL and WNBA over the last three years. To his credit, Harris hasn’t shied away from talking about his performance in Game 7.

RELATED: DANIEL HUDSON ISN’T SURE A 60-GAME MLB SEASON CAN DETERMINE THE BEST TEAM

“Look, I took the L in Game 7, that’s never gonna change,” Harris said on MLB Network in January. “But at the same time, I plan on winning my next Game 7 and I plan on winning more World Series, and I think Washington is a place I can do that.”

As if there was any doubt before, it appears that Harris has completely committed to his ballclub and D.C. as a sports town.

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