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MLB, union meet for 1 1/2 hours, discuss next step in talks

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Major League Baseball Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, left, and Commissioner Rob Manfred, right, walk after negotiations with the players association on Monday.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Major League Baseball Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, left, and Commissioner Rob Manfred, right, walk after negotiations with the players association on Monday.

NEW YORK >> Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem and chief union negotiator Bruce Meyer met for 1 1/2 hours today and discussed the major issues in the stalled talks to reach a deal that would end Major League Baseball’s lockout.

Union general counsel Ian Penny and MLB Executive Vice President Morgan Sword also participated in the session.

The players’ association executive board held a conference call later today. There was no known decision on the timing of the next negotiating session.

Baseball’s ninth work stoppage was in its 92nd day today and is the sport’s first labor conflict to cause games to be canceled since the 1994-95 strike wiped out the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Negotiations broke off Tuesday after the ninth straight day of meetings in Jupiter, Florida, and baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that opening day on March 31 and the first two series for each team this season had been canceled. He said there would be insufficient training time for the March 31 openers.

Negotiating teams then headed home.

The sides had made progress during 16 1/2 hours of bargaining that ended at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday but were still far apart on areas that include the key economic components of the luxury tax, pre-arbitration bonus pool and minimum salaries. The sides expressed anger at each other’s proposals when talks resumed later that day.

Fitch Ratings said the cancellation will not impact MLB and stadium-level debt ratings for now due to liquidity that included dedicated debt reserve funds sufficient for a season-long stoppage. Fitch said MLB’s media contracts are structured for continued payments in 2022 during a lockout, with the possibility of repayments due later.

“The coronavirus-affected 2020 season demonstrates that the league and its teams have financial resources to withstand a shortened season, albeit with reliance on liquidity support from ownership or debt financing,” Fitch said. “Under a one-month cancellation, we expect MLB will be able to preserve national media revenue at levels close to those agreed to under contract.”

Fitch added “a prolonged work stoppage could also alienate fans and corporate sponsors, which could not only affect revenue in the current season but could drag on the growth of the sport in the longer term.” It also said “team and stadium financings will face rating pressure sooner than the league if the lockout extends beyond April.”

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