The momentum seems to be building for MLB lockout talks

Saturday will mark the 87th day since 1995's first baseball work stoppage.

The momentum seems to be building for MLB lockout talks

JUPITER (Fla.) -- Major league baseball players and owners made a first step towards salvaging opening day. They reached an agreement on Friday regarding an amateur draft lottery. This was during lockout negotiations that also included a surprise meeting between Tony Clark and Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Although an agreement was not reached on the draft, talks gained momentum as Major League Baseball's Monday deadline approached. The goal of the deal was to preserve the opening day on April 31 and maintain a 162-game schedule.

Saturday will mark the 87th day since baseball's last work stoppage in 1995. The sides remain far apart on the big-money issues of the competitive balance tax thresholds and rates, salary arbitration eligibility, the size of a bonus pool for pre-arbitration-eligible players and the minimum salary.

Another sign of the disruption caused baseball's ninth work stoppage was that MLB cancelled three more spring training games until March 7. Exhibition games were supposed to have started Saturday.

Both sides felt that they were moving in the right direction for the first time this week.

Manfred met with Clark in June 2020 as part of pandemic restart talks. This resulted in disagreement and an still-pending grievance about the length of the season.

Manfred hadn't been to bargaining since April's first session. Manfred has a residence in the region and was present at the ballpark on the first four days of this week to speak with management.

Manfred surprised the players' union by asking for a one-on-1 meeting with Clark.

Manfred then walked the short distance from the offices at home plate, where managers were grouped, and crossed the driveway behind the right field foul pole to enter the building that houses the Cardinals spring-training clubhouse, where players had been gathered. About 20 minutes later, he returned to his office.

Three negotiating sessions were held on the day, which was a record for this week.

To address the claim of the union that teams give up on winning to get a top pick at the amateur draft, MLB proposed that the top selections be decided by a lottery. The NBA started in 1985, and the NHL a decade later.

MLB offered to determine the first four picks by lottery. The teams with the lowest winning percentages would have best chance of getting the top pick. The union requested that the lottery be used to sort the first seven selections.

Friday saw the sides exchanging proposals on how to adjust and penalize lottery picks. This was a step closer to a format agreement. After months of negotiations, there was an immediate back-and-forth: MLB presented a proposal, the union countered and the management will respond on Saturday.

Other areas were also discussed and described as lively and sometimes emotional.

Management included Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees managing general partner, and Dick Monfort (Colorado CEO), as well as Morgan Sword, Executive Vice President Morgan Sword, and Dan Halem, Deputy Commissioner.

Clark was the leader of players that included Max Scherzer and Andrew Miller, as well as Zack Britton, who were members of the union's executive subcommittee.

The players haven't accepted Monday as the deadline. They suggested that any games missed could be made up in doubleheaders, which MLB has rejected.

After Monday is over, the length and time of the schedule will become a problem in the dispute.

MLB has been informed by the union that if games are not played and salaries are lost clubs shouldn't expect players to accept management's plans to expand the postseason or allow advertising on helmets.

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