Sport Major League Baseball return-to-play negotiations fail
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Major League Baseball return-to-play negotiations fail

Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon tags Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve in the World Series game two in Houston in October. Photo: EPA
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Major League Baseball appears headed for its shortest season since the 1870s.

Continuing a bitter dispute over pay, baseball players told the commissioner’s office on Saturday night, local time, that additional talks to start the season during the coronavirus pandemic are pointless and said owners should order a return to work.

The union’s action might lead to a season of about 50 games rather than the 82 initially proposed by MLB.

The players association could respond by filing a grievance that would be heard by an arbitrator, arguing their members are owed hundreds of millions of dollars in damages due to a shorter season.

This all could spark lengthy litigation over money and a renewal of the sport’s labour wars, or even prompt some star players to sit out.

“It unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile,” union head Tony Clark said in a statement.

“It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”

MLB responded with a statement accusing the union of not negotiating in good faith and cited the late March agreement that called for pro-rated salaries – which included $170 million in salary advances – but did not obligate teams to play in empty ballparks.

Clubs could file a grievance claiming the union did not meet its “good faith” obligation.

“The MLBPA’s position that players are entitled to virtually all the revenue from a 2020 season played without fans is not fair to the thousands of other baseball employees that clubs and our office are supporting financially during this very difficult 2020 season,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement.

“We will evaluate the union’s refusal to adhere to the terms of the March agreement, and after consulting with ownership, determine the best course to bring baseball back to our fans.”

Players insist they should not have to accept additional cuts.

MLB made three economic offers last Friday and the union proposed two.

The sides remain far apart on how much players should get of the $4 billion in salaries they originally were set to earn: A 50-game regular season would guarantee $1.27 billion while players want $2.25 billion and an 89-game season.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said last week there is a “100 per cent” chance of a season, adding “unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year”.