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What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

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Craig covered Wednesday’s afternoon action. I have your evening contests.

The NL East has been really interesting this season. It didn’t figure to be that way. Most pre-season prognostications had the Nationals battling it out with the Mets for NL East supremacy while the Braves and Phillies would fight to stay out of the cellar. The Marlins would float somewhere in between, in intra-division purgatory.

The Phillies beat the Marlins today 4-2 to improve to 24-17, moving into a first-place tie with the Nationals. As MLB.com’s Richard Justice points out, the Phillies didn’t accrue 24 wins until their 71st game last season. As of this writing, only the 27-10 Cubs have more wins in the National League than the Phillies do. Even more surprisingly, if the Mets beat the Nationals this evening, the Phillies will move into a tie for first place in the division with all of the day’s games completed. Excepting their Opening Day win against the Rangers in 2014 and their Opening Day win against the Pirates in 2012, the Phillies haven’t been in first place since the end of the 2011 regular season. That’s quite a turnaround for a rebuilding club.

We talked recently about being skeptical of the Phillies’ success thus far. The offense is anemic and their run differential thoroughly in the red. Even GM Matt Klentak knows the numbers don’t portend this kind of success over the span of the entire season, but the city of Philadelphia deserves to feel good about something. The Phillies are on the up and up and get to pick first in the draft next month, adding to an already stacked minor league system. The 76ers got the first overall pick in last night’s draft lottery, which will propel their rebuilding process. The Eagles picked second in the draft, grabbing quarterback Carson Wentz. Philly fandom, especially lately, has mostly been about the lovable losers, but the hope is that one of the four major sports teams in town can build a lovable winner sooner rather than later.

The Mets will fight the Nationals on the Phillies’ behalf tonight at 7:10 PM EDT at Citi Field. Gio Gonzalez starts for the Nats and Bartolo Colon for the Mets.

The rest of Wednesday night’s action…

Atlanta Braves (Julio Teheran) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Taijuan Walker) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Toronto Blue Jays (R.A. Dickey), 7:07 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Mike Clevinger) @ Cincinnati Reds (Brandon Finnegan), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (John Lackey) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Jimmy Nelson), 8:10 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Doug Fister) @ Chicago White Sox (Mat Latos), 8:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (David Price) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 8:15 PM EDT (Game Two)

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright), 8:15 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Nathan Eovaldi) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Shelby Miller), 9:40 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Mike Bolsinger) @ Los Angeles Angels (Nick Tropeano), 10:05 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Johnny Cueto) @ San Diego Padres (Drew Pomeranz), 10:10 PM EDT

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: