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MLBPA counters with pitch for 70-game schedule, but don’t expect owners to bite

The players said they could play 70 games starting July 19 and end the season on Sept. 30.ASSOCIATED PRESS/Associated Press

The Players Association wasted little time in making a counterproposal to the Commissioner’s Office on Thursday, offering a 70-game schedule.

Even more swiftly came word from commissioner Rob Manfred that a schedule that long would be “simply impossible.”

Once the owners formally reject the proposal, as expected, the next question will be whether Manfred will try to forge a compromise with the union or implement a shorter season. In his comments to USA Today and MLB Network, Manfred said he and the owners prefer the former.

“We’re at the same place. We want to play. We want to reach an agreement,” said Manfred. “We’re doing everything necessary to find a way to play, hopefully by agreement.”

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What's Rob Manfred's next step?John Raoux/Associated Press

Manfred said his sense is that the owners do not want to employ the more drastic option of canceling the season.

“This needs to be over,” said Manfred. “Until I speak with the owners, I can’t give you a firm deadline.‘'

The players’ offer is 10 more games than what the owners proposed on Wednesday. The union’s new offer would have teams spend $1.76 billion in salaries, which is $260 million more ($8.67 million more per team on average) than they were prepared to pay a day earlier.

The 60-game offer made by the owners would cost them $1.5 billion in salaries.

Settling at or near 65 games would be the logical outcome. Given the antagonistic tenor and substance to these talks, volatility and unpredictability remain likely.

The owners’ proposal came not long after Manfred flew to Arizona to meet face to face Monday with the union’s executive director, Tony Clark, to revive the stalled talks. Manfred left the meeting believing a “jointly developed framework” had been crafted, according to a statement. But according to initial reports Thursday, owners reacted poorly to the new proposal because they did not want the “framework” depicted as a tentative agreement.

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Tony Clark met with Rob Manfred this week to try and craft an agreement.The Washington Post

Anticipating a negative reaction from the Commissioner’s Office, Clark issued a statement not long after the union’s proposal, saying it was “unequivocally false to suggest that any tentative agreement or other agreement was reached in that meeting. In fact, in conversations within the last 24 hours, Rob invited a counterproposal for more games that he would take back to the owners.”

Clark added, ”In my discussions with Rob in Arizona we explored a potential pro rata framework, but I made clear repeatedly in that meeting and after it that there were a number of significant issues with what he proposed, in particular the number of games.”

Said Manfred: “I don’t know what Tony and I were doing there for several hours going back and forth and making trades if we weren’t reaching an agreement.”

If a 65-game settlement is reached, MLB would have to pay approximately $1.63 billion in salaries, or $130 million more in aggregate than Wednesday’s offer. On average, that works out to $4.33 million more for each of the 30 teams.

Beyond the increase in games, a number of key elements were included in the players’ proposal, many of which the owners were seeking, including expansion of the playoffs and a mutual litigation waiver.

The players agreed that 16 teams would make the playoffs (currently there are 10) this year and next, and that the universal DH also would be part of the deal for both years.

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If all playoff games are played without interruption from COVID-19, the players want a $50 million pool. When it comes to postseason TV revenues, the players want a 50-50 split coming from the extra playoff games.

The owners wanted to begin their season on July 19 or 20. The players said they could play 70 games starting July 19, and end it on Sept. 30, three days later than when the owners wanted to end the season.

“We are not extending the season,” said Manfred. “We are not playing doubleheaders. It is not safe.‘'

If the 70-game plan is approved, teams could report to spring training later this month, with games at ballparks like Fenway soon after that.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

With the 70-game offer, spring training would begin June 28, when pitchers and catchers would report, with position players following two days later.

The players agreed to the owners’ idea of wearing corporate advertising on their uniforms, a source of revenue for the owners, and, no small matter, the players agreed not to file a grievance against the owners for negotiating in bad faith. That’s something the players had previously pondered on the basis of owners not living up to the March 26 agreement (paying players 100 percent prorated salaries and striving to play as many games as possible).

In their four proposals, the owners have gone from 82, 76, 72 to 60 games.

Only their last offer of 60 games did the owners agree to abide by one section of the March 26 agreement in which the sides negotiated that players would be paid 100 percent of their prorated salaries. In prior offers, owners offered pay cuts on top of prorated salaries.

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In their three proposals, the players’ union has made offers of 114, 89, and now 70 games.

Also in the players’ proposal: an enhanced housing allowance for both spring training and the regular season; working with broadcasters to offer in-game enhancements such as players wearing microphones; $10 million in social justice initiatives, with the funds to be drawn from the Welfare Plan fund; $50 million transferred from joint funds to the Commissioner’s Discretionary Fund; a salary advance forgiveness for Tier I-III players; and an OK for a quarantined neutral site setup for the playoffs.

In his first statement of the day on Thursday, Clark said: “We delivered to Major League Baseball today a counterproposal based on a 70-game regular season, which, among a number of issues, includes expanded playoffs for both 2020 and 2021. We believe this offer represents the basis for an agreement on resumption of play.”


Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.