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Union leaders’ vote and coronavirus threat loom over MLB’s pitch for a 60-game season

The union’s 38-member executive board — an eight-member executive subcommittee and representatives from each of the 30 teams — met virtually to deliberate, according to multiple reports, and is expected to vote in the coming days.

Its options essentially are to accept MLB’s 60-game offer, reject it or make a new proposal for fewer than the 70 games the union proposed in its most recent offer, which was rejected. If the union accepts the 60-game proposal, it would waive the right to file a grievance over what it has called bad-faith negotiating, and training camps could open in the next week or two.

If the union rejects MLB’s offer, Commissioner Rob Manfred is likely to exercise his right to implement a mini-season of about 50 games — which could start, without fans, in late July or early August — although owners also could push to cancel the season rather than risk a grievance while paying players full, prorated shares of their salaries for those games.

MLB informed the union Friday that it had rejected the players’ 70-game proposal. Although the sides could continue negotiating and get to a middle ground between 60 and 70, both sides appear entrenched. The owners don’t want to pay players for more than 60 games because they say they will lose money with every game played without fans; the players want to play more games (and be paid more) in exchange for waiving their right to file a grievance.

Amid all of that, the coronavirus presents an even more dire threat to the season. An outbreak around the Philadelphia Phillies — in which at least five players and three staff members tested positive at the team’s spring training headquarters in Clearwater, Fla. — shifted plans for reopening training camps and highlighted the towering degree of difficulty in pulling off a season across 17 states, the District of Columbia and Toronto.

Unlike some other sports hoping to use a one-location, quarantined “bubble,” MLB has been moving forward with plans to play its 2020 season in teams’ home stadiums. Part or all of the postseason could be staged at a neutral site under a bubble plan to reduce the chance the virus forces its cancellation.

The Phillies news, plus isolated cases involving a handful of additional teams, prompted MLB to temporarily close all 30 spring sites in Florida and Arizona this weekend for thorough cleaning and disinfection. Players returning to those facilities when they reopen will be required to test negative for the coronavirus before being allowed in.

Some teams had been planning to hold a second spring training at their facilities in Florida and Arizona, but the spike in coronavirus cases in those states is expected to force those clubs — with the potential exception of the Toronto Blue Jays, who are hampered by travel restrictions into Canada — to shift their camps to their regular season homes.

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