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Are MLB's Storm Clouds Starting to Part, & is an Athletics Season's Start Close at Hand?

Just days ago the players and owners were at an impassed. But Wednesday afternoon it became evident that by negotiating face-to-face instead of by email or conference call might have proved successful, The A's are making some rumblings as if they think a season might be near.
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Baseball fans got their first reason to be optimistic about a 2020 season in just short of forever Wednesday.

All it took was abandoning email diatribes and have the principals meet face to face. When players’ boss Tony Clark and owners’ man Rob Manfred got together, they put together a plan that would call for a 60-game season that would start sometime in July and would end on Sept. 27, setting up October playoffs.

Ummm, guys. You could have done this a month ago, sparing a month’s worth of some of the worst publicity the sport has ever received. We would have been spared “Those guys aren’t negotiating in good faith” diatribes from both sides. We could have done without Manfred going from offering a 100 percent guarantee that there would be a season to expressing confidence that a season would be played. And we would have done without some of the furloughs that are impacting so many lives, although, notably, not the MLB players or owners.

Here we are, then, after three months of negotiations-that-weren’t reading this statement from Manfred:

“At my request, Tony Clark and I met for several hours yesterday in Phoenix,” Manfred said in a Wednesday statement. “We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement.”

Do tell. Sure, both sides have to get into the fine print. The players have to approve, collectively, and no more than eight owners can put a thumbs’ down.

There may yet be baseball. And this after a week in which the players threw up their hands at the owners’ intransience and said they were done talking. They told the owners to set a start date and specify the number of games to be played, the so-called @WhenAndWhere campaign. The players said they’d show up.

It would be great to announce there is a deal. There isn’t. There is a proposal, but for the first time, the proposal seems to have room for ongoing negotiations.

The players have been pushing for something in the area of 72 games, and they may come back with an offer for something in the 65-70 game area. If they do it successfully, they’d wind up earning about 40 percent of their original salaries this season. At 60 games, they would be playing for about 37.5 percent of their contract value.

The proposal reportedly calls for starting in mid-July, which would mean the A’s would probably assemble in Oakland in the last week of June for a fan-less three weeks of workouts. The season would end on Sept. 27, after which 16 teams would make an expanded playoff field.

The A’s were 30-30 in their first 60 games last year and would have made such a playoff as the No. 7-ranked team. After 65 games they were 33-32, also seventh. After 70 games, Oakland was 36-34 and sixth-ranked. So, anything close to last year’s performance should get the A’s into the playoffs.

Oakland general manager David Forst, talking on the team’s A’s Cast Wednesday afternoon, seemed to be feeling just a little optimistic. He said the club’s plan would be to have their 30-man roster in Oakland once the season starts and have a 20-man taxi squad elsewhere. As we postulated last week, that would probably be in Stockton, home of the Class-A Ports, Oakland’s California League team. MLB teams are being told their taxi squads need to be within 150 miles, if possible, to keep travel costs down.

What A’s fans shouldn’t expect is to see the inside of the Coliseum in person. California doesn’t allow for large groups to congregate. On the other hand, consideration is being given the Rangers and the Astros being able to have up to 50 percent capacity, because Texas’ governmental rules allow for that. No matter that the Texas’s coronavirus has soared since Gov. Greg Abbott directed a rapid reopening of his state.

The deal seems to be contingent on the owners knowing the players will agree to waive and grievances over what’s gone down in the last three months.

The players association has made it clear that no deal has been done.

But, perhaps, if we use a periscope, we can see it sailing closer.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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