Baseball moves to the brink of a disastrous outcome


Major League Baseball is on the brink of "a disastrous outcome."

Commissioner Rob Manfred's deadline for a labor deal with the Players Association arrives Monday. If the two sides cannot resolve their differences by the end of the day, the season will not begin as scheduled on March 31.

"I see missing (regular-season) games as a disastrous outcome for this industry," Manfred said on February 10.

Since then, the two sides have traded proposals and had face-to-face meetings. Economics remains the most vexing issue with the sides battling chiefly over the luxury tax and matters of salary arbitration.

Manfred set Monday as the deadline to preserve opening day because owners believe players would need at least 28 days of spring training to be ready for the season.

Spring training games were supposed to begin on Saturday. Already, MLB has twice pushed back the start of exhibition play. Spring training games will not start until March 8, at the earliest. Obviously, that is contingent on an agreement.

The Phillies are scheduled to open the season March 31 in Houston and play their home opener eight days later against the Oakland A's.

On February 10, Manfred said owners "understand how important it is to our fans to get the game on the field as soon as possible."

The game was bruised badly after the labor war of 1994-95 and needed a steroid-fueled era of Powerball to regain widespread appeal with fans. This latest round of labor strife comes with baseball in a more tenuous and vulnerable place. The loss of regular-season contests would be another test of patience for fans already asked to endure interminably long games and a plodding style of play.

The collective bargaining agreement between owners and the players expired on December 1. Owners followed by issuing a lockout, which stopped offseason transactions. The lack of a hot stove season has knocked baseball completely out of the sporting consciousness in some cities, particularly in Philadelphia, where the Eagles' quarterback situation and the red-hot 76ers dominate the headlines.

Is baseball about to slip further off the grid?

Monday is a big day.

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