Capping whirlwind day, MLB urges players to report to camps by July 1

The move came Monday evening after the players’ union turned down a 60-game plan with full prorated salaries.

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Major League Baseball has asked players to report to camps by July 1.

Major League Baseball has asked players to report to camps by July 1.

Darron Cummings/AP

After all that, Major League Baseball has a restart date: July 1.

Maybe.

Late Monday, a few hours after the MLB Players Association had turned down the latest offer from management, MLB issued a statement that — at last, and if nothing else — provided a strong sense that a 2020 season, however compromised, is coming.

To produce a schedule with a specific number of games, MLB urged the MLBPA to give it an answer by Tuesday about whether players will be able to report to camps by July 1.

No matter how poorly beleaguered commissioner Rob Manfred has handled negotiations with the union since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the season, and no matter how much blame fans and media were laying on owners for what has felt like an interminable stalemate, it’s on the players to keep the boulder moving forward now.

In the final accounting of these negotiations, there will be, of course, more than enough ‘‘L’s’’ to go around. Given the task of finding common ground to save the season amid broader struggles related to the pandemic, MLB and the MLBPA were unable to do so before Manfred had to go to his so-called nuclear option.

A July 1 start to camps likely would mean —with no major coronavirus-related snags — an Opening Day sometime in the last week of the month.

The MLBPA’s executive board rejected MLB’s latest offer Monday by a 33-5 vote, setting up a widely expected next step by Manfred: a unilaterally implemented schedule. Such a schedule likely will feature 50 to 60 games with full prorated play but without an expanded playoff field.

Of more relevance in the big picture, nothing has been solved in terms of the strife between the sides. An even bigger, gnarlier fight looms with the collective-bargaining agreement scheduled to expire in 2021 and acrimony already dialed up to 10.

Rejected, by a resounding count, was a 60-game package at full prorated salaries. The sides remained far enough apart on games (10 or so) and money (about $275 million) that what most observers figured would be hammered out weeks ago — and a lot less publicly — instead went full blood-in-the-streets mode in plain sight of the sport’s disgusted fans.

Now attention will turn to that July 1 date — and to safety plans and protocols both sides will have to embrace as spikes in coronavirus cases affect much of the country.

‘‘Earlier this evening, the full Board reaffirmed the players’ eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible,’’ an MLBPA statement said. ‘‘To that end, we anticipate finalizing a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols with Major League Baseball in the coming days. . . .

‘‘While we had hoped to reach a revised back-to-work agreement with the league, the Players remain fully committed to proceeding under our current agreement and getting back on the field for the fans, for the game and for each other.’’

Barely a week ago, the union responded to an earlier MLB offer by calling further negotiation ‘‘futile’’ and saying, in dramatic fashion: ‘‘It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.’’ The ‘‘when and where’’ part became a popular hashtag used by players on social media.

After ‘‘when and where’’ turned into a 33-5 nay vote, players will have a public-relations hit to take with fans who had been laying more blame on Manfred and the owners.

Spring training was suspended March 12. Two weeks later, the details of the season to come still vastly unknown, the sides agreed that players would receive prorated salaries depending on how many games would be played. As time passed and reality set in that many — and perhaps all — games would be played with zero ticket revenue, negotiations sparked back up.

Players are expected to file a grievance, claiming MLB violated a provision in the March agreement that required both sides to work in good faith to start the season as early as possible and play as complete a season as possible. MLB is expected to file a grievance accusing the union of negotiating in bad faith.

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