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Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball requests federal mediation in talks with Players Association

An on-time start to spring training on Feb. 16 is all but impossible at this stage of the lockout.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

In a move that signals its frustration at the torpid pace of negotiations, Major League Baseball requested federal mediation on Thursday to resolve the lockout imposed on the players.

Sources confirmed that MLB has asked the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to intervene in talks over a new collective bargaining agreement that threaten to delay and shorten the upcoming season.

The union would have to agree in order for mediation to begin. The Players Association declined to comment on MLB’s action.

That the request will draw attention to the unproductive talks is not in question, although MLB and the Players Association can be expected to have different opinions on whether the request is an authentic call for help or a publicity stunt.


It’s clear that MLB does not have much faith anymore that face-to-face talks will yield progress.

According to an MLB official, the tightening timeline prompted the request, with the league believing this will be the most productive path to start the season on time. The thinking is that an experienced, neutral, third-party mediator will be needed to bridge the gap.

What's next for commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark?Ron Blum/Associated Press

Scot Beckenbaugh, national representative for the FMCS who mediated the NHL’s CBA talks in 2013, is a potential mediator, although that’s predicated on the union agreeing to the methodology, which is no sure thing.

The sides have met only four times since the lockout began Dec. 2, the first work stoppage in the sport in 26 years. Commissioner Rob Manfred said part of the strategy behind the lockout was to spur progress in the stalled negotiations.

Forty-two days after the lockout began, the owners delivered counterproposals from the sides’ last unsuccessful session on Dec. 1.

The sides met Tuesday at MLB headquarters, after two meetings the previous week at Players Association headquarters, also in Manhattan. Tuesday’s session, like prior meetings, featured heated exchanges, each side blaming the other for insufficient concessions and a lack of urgency to get a deal done.


The sides met Wednesday and Thursday to discuss less-contentious issues. MLB was expected by most to be the one to propose the next meeting over core economic issues, but no such meeting has been scheduled.

An on-time start to spring training on Feb. 16 is all but impossible at this stage.

The players are seeking most of the changes, focusing on getting younger players paid earlier via increasing minimum salaries and arbitration eligibility, and increasing competitive integrity via changes to the draft, competitive balance thresholds, and decreasing revenue sharing.

The owners seek expanded playoffs, which the players have agreed to, although the players want the playoff field to expand by two, to 12, while the owners want 14.

Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com.