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Bryce Harper homers off of Hunter Strickland again

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Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper and Nationals reliever Hunter Strickland have quite the history, just not in their current uniforms. In the 2014 NLDS, Harper took Strickland deep twice. The first came in the seventh inning of Game 1, reducing the Nationals’ deficit to 3-1 in a game they would lose 3-2. The other came in the seventh inning of Game 4, a game-tying solo home run which Harper gawked at.

Strickland didn’t like that Harper admired his home run, even though Harper was just as curious as the rest of us at the time whether or not the ball would stay fair. It’s a grudge that Strickland carried for three years as the two players wouldn’t face each other in the interim.

In late May 2017, Strickland finally exacted revenge, firing a fastball into Harper’s hip. Harper charged the mound, starting one of baseball’s most memorable brawls — one that inadvertently ended Mike Morse’s career.

Harper was suspended three games while Strickland was handed a six-game time out. Harper and Strickland matched up again in June last year, but it was uneventful as Harper grounded out.

Today is Strickland’s 31st birthday. Harper, now a Phillie, is in town to face Strickland’s Nationals. Almost a Freaky Friday moment. With the Phillies already having been eliminated from postseason contention in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, manager Gabe Kapler elected not to have Harper start. As fate would have it, however, Kapler pinch-hit Harper for reliever Jared Hughes, facing Strickland. The more things change the more they stay the same. Strickland fell behind Harper 3-0, got a fastball over for a strike, then Harper hit a no-doubt solo home run to close the Phillies’ deficit to 6-5. Harper admired his handiwork, as usual.

In five plate appearances against Strickland, Harper has three solo homers, an HBP, and a ground out. We’ll have to see if Strickland will hold another grudge against Harper. The Phillies and Nationals have two more games remaining in their series, so there’s a chance for some fireworks.

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: