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Things are getting tense between MLB and the union

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The MLB Players Association and the league have not been on great terms for some time, but things seem to be deteriorating even further.

Yes, there is the potential for some common ground when it comes to a health and safety plan for a 2020 season, but when it comes to the dollars and cents of it all, things are looking dire.

To review:

  • On March 26, MLB and the MLBPA reached a general agreement about how to handle a 2020 baseball season. As far as money goes, there was an agreement that players would be paid on a prorated basis, but a clause in the agreement stipulated that the sides would negotiate in good faith about the economic feasibility of playing a season without fans if that was necessary. There is a lot of disagreement about what that really means;
  • A few weeks ago MLB began to make it public via leaks to reporters that it expected the players to make financial concessions, preferably in the form of a 50/50 revenue split instead of paying prorated salaries. The players, via public statements of union executive director Tony Clark, made it clear that they would not accept that if it were proposed;
  • On May 13 the union nonetheless requested that the league provide it with financial documentation to justify any financial concessions it expects the players to make. The MLBPA has a right to make such a demand under the Collective Bargaining Agreement;
  • Since then a steady stream of leaks from the MLB side of things to MLB-friendly reporters has attempted to push the case that the players are not merely obligated to negotiate with the league, but they are somehow locked into making certain concessions;
  • The most notable of these leaks occurred two day ago when Joel Sherman of the New York Post was given some internal emails from Major League Baseball which his sources attempted to portray as some kind of “smoking gun” that committed the players to do . . . something. For a ton of reasons, both legal and practical, some of which I talked about here, the story Sherman’s sources were trying to create was nonsense. 

Lost in that noise, however, is the fact that . . . Major League Baseball has not yet made a financial proposal to or demand of the players yet. Really, they haven’t. As late as this morning it was reported that they’d be making a formal proposal early next week. But no, there is no demand on the table. All of the demands in the press that the players compromise, fueled as they have been by anonymous sources affiliated with MLB, are, essentially, demands that the players bid against themselves.

Against that backdrop comes this a few minutes ago from Jon Heyman:

Which, yes, that’s a leak too, so it’s not just MLB who is talking to the press about this.

But it does establish that, as the two sides have been presented with the extraordinarily difficult task of coming to an agreement to play a season under unprecedented circumstances that may, in the best of circumstances, be nearly impossible to pull off, MLB’s campaign of trying to negotiate via the media before it even makes a presentation to the players — and before it even gives the players the information they have requested in order to assess any such presentations — has made things even harder.

Ex-Angels employee charged in overdose death of Tyler Skaggs

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay was communications director for the Angels.

Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.

Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.

“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose – coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career – should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.

If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.