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MLB

Baseball players reject owners’ request for federal mediation in labor talks

Tony Clark is the executive director of the Players Association.Morry Gash/Associated Press

Major League Baseball players flatly rejected the owners’ request for mediation Friday, instead asking for labor negotiations to resume.

“The clearest path to a fair and timely agreement is to get back to the table,” read a statement from the Players Association. “Players stand ready to negotiate.”

On Thursday, MLB owners requested immediate assistance in the form of a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in an effort to unlock the stalled negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement.

A tightening timeline that has all but ensured a delayed start to spring training — and has put an on-time start to the regular season at risk — was a primary reason behind the owners’ request.

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The players, who have been locked out since Dec. 2, pointed to a lack of urgency on the owners’ side for the current predicament with the baseball calendar.

“Two months after implementing their lockout, and just two days after committing to Players that a counterproposal would be made, the owners refused to make a counter, and instead requested mediation,” said the players’ statement. “After consultation with our Executive Board, and taking into account a variety of factors, we have declined this request.”

MLB met the rejection, which was not unexpected, with a mixture of disappointment, puzzlement, and determination.

“Our goal is to have players on the field and fans in the ballparks for Spring Training and Opening Day,” said an MLB spokesperson in a statement. “With camps scheduled to open in less than two weeks, it is time to get immediate assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help us work through our differences and break the deadlock.

“It is clear the most productive path forward would be the involvement of an impartial third party to help bridge gaps and facilitate an agreement. It is hard to understand why a party that wants to make an agreement would reject mediation from the federal agency specifically tasked with resolving these disputes, including many successes in professional sports.

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“MLB remains committed to offering solutions at the table and reaching a fair agreement for both sides.”

Mets pitcher Max Scherzer, one of two MLBPA representatives on its Executive Subcommittee, weighed in on the latest flap on Twitter, writing, “We don’t want mediation because what we are offering to MLB is fair for both sides: We want a system where threshold and penalties don’t function as caps, allows younger players to realize more of their market value, makes service time manipulation a thing of the past, and eliminate tanking as a winning strategy.”

Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon tweeted, “If the goal is to get players on the field asap- then why did it take 43 days after the lockout to even hear from MLB? Didn’t seem like a priority then! Why did we not get a counter proposal this week? It’s all extremely tired antics/optics.”

Next week, the owners will hold their quarterly meetings in Orlando, Fla., where commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to hold a press conference Thursday, perhaps to make an announcement about a delay to spring training.

There is a possibility that face-to-face negotiations will resume in Florida.

The sides last met Tuesday at MLB headquarters in New York. They have held three other bargaining sessions since the lockout began, two in-person meetings and one over Zoom.

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Significant differences remain on issues that revolve around getting younger players paid earlier and competitive integrity.

The work stoppage is the first for baseball since 1995.


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