MLB owners and players seem near a deal to play the 2020 season after an in-person meeting between Rob Manfred and Tony Clark.

Several weeks were wasted and the sport was nearly torn apart, but it finally appears that Major League Baseball owners and the Players Association are going to reach a deal to play the 2020 MLB season.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported on Wednesday the two sides are close to an agreement, although reports that a deal has already been agreed to were quickly disputed. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the deal would call for a 60-game season to begin on July 19-20 with full prorated salaries and expanded playoffs in both 2020 and 2021.

Just 48 hours ago, the chances of the two sides reaching this point seemed bleak. Commissioner Rob Manfred said he wasn’t confident a season would be played and the situation was a “disaster” for the league. The players countered that Manfred and the owners were simply stalling in order to impose a shorter season. After weeks of arguing and acrimonious name-calling through the media, it appeared the two camps were as far apart as ever.

All it took to end the impasse was something that should’ve happened weeks ago. Manfred flew to Arizona on Tuesday to meet face-to-face with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, talks which were described as productive.

The dispute centers on the interpretation of an agreement reached on March 26. Players allege the agreement guaranteed them full prorated salaries depending on how many games were played this season; owners say the deal was contingent on playing with fans. With no fans likely in the seats for the entire season, and with it the loss of ticket and concession revenue, they wanted the players to agree to a second pay cut. The players never budged and rejected any calls for additional pay cuts.

A 60-game season with full prorated salaries would cost the owners around $1.4 billion. The league alleges that television revenue brings in about $980,000 per game, or about $882 million over 60 games. That comes out to a deficit of around $518 million, or about $17 million per club. Add to it the expanded postseason and the additional revenue that will generate, and the financial hit to the owners will be substantially less under this latest proposal.

MLB missed the opportunity to start the season on the Fourth of July and generated tons of ill-will among fans not interested in a labor dispute during a pandemic. But, if the signs of progress on Wednesday turn out to be a reality, that will all be forgotten when the announcement of ‘Play Ball’ is made as soon as 32 days from now.

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