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MLB Lockout, Day 55: Movement in talks leads to another session

Rockies Owner Dick Monfort is one of only four people from each side in the room for latest round of talks in N.Y.GETTY IMAGES

MLB and the MLBPA "plan to meet again" today after a bargaining session yesterday led to the "first sliver of progress between the sides since the league locked the players out Dec. 2," according to sources cited by Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. In the two-hour face-to-face meeting yesterday, the union offered a "broad proposal in which it dropped its request for age-based free agency and significantly cut the amount of revenue sharing it asked the league to funnel away from small-market teams." The union "rejected three MLB proposals from the first post-lockout meeting between the sides 11 days ago." MLB offered a "formula-based salary system for players between two and three years of service time, a draft-pick reward for success by players who started on Opening Day rosters and a slight tweak" to the draft lottery. Sources said that the players "remained steadfast in a number of their positions," including "raising the minimum salary from $570,500 a year to $775,000, bumping the competitive balance tax threshold" from $210M to $245M and "instituting a draft lottery among non-playoff teams for the first eight picks." Dropping the request for age-based free agency, "helped set the stage" for today's meeting. The small meeting of four people from each party included lead negotiators Dan Halem (MLB) and Bruce Meyer (MLBPA) as well as free-agent P Andrew Miller and Rockies Owner Dick Monfort, who heads the league's labor relations committee (ESPN.com, 1/24). The AP's Ronald Blum notes Miller was the only player present, and neither side "commented publicly" on the union's latest proposal (AP, 1/25).

POINTS OF VIEW: In N.Y., James Wagner cites an MLB official who characterized yesterday's session as a "spirited back and forth." Both sides now believe that they have "made recent offers that have moved in each others’ direction." How much, though, "depends on the point of view" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/25). In Boston, Michael Silverman notes neither side "viewed the heated dialogue to be anything other than the standard byproduct of labor negotiation." Both sides also "conceded that meeting in person and being able to speak freely and candidly, even when coming from two still mostly entrenched positions, was a positive development," same as the "agreement to continue the dialogue the following day" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/25). In St. Louis, Derrick Goold writes it is "possible that proposal did more than restart the inert talks: It invited the union to reveal what issues it was going to hold tight, give the owners a peek at their core goals, and where there might be a little give to get." Both sides "finally might be getting a clearer sense of how each side ranks its desires" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/25). MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand said the players dropping the free agency request "is a big sign" of progress, as it was a "big issue in the negotiations." MLB was "not looking to change that," as it has been a "core component of the CBA for a very long time." This is a "sign that things are potentially moving forward" (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 1/24).

OBSTACLES REMAIN: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes before anyone "starts celebrating, or team officials can actually speak to their own players, significant obstacles remain." It is "unknown what happens next" when the two sides meet again today, but "finally, and mercifully, they are at the bargaining table, actually talking face to face" (USA TODAY, 1/25). SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote the Feb. 16 scheduled start of spring training "remains in question because of the glacial pace of negotiations and the lack of progress on core issues." One optimistic sign is that this session was "held in person rather than by videoconference" (SI.com, 1/24). In Philadelphia, Scott Lauber writes it is "not known whether MLB will make a counterproposal" or if the players’ concessions will "spur enough movement to avoid a delay in the start of spring training." But the pace of the talks, "nonexistent last month," is "finally picking up" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/25).

FAN INTEREST: THE ATHLETIC's Brittany Ghiroli wrote this fight involves two parties who can "barely stand to be in the same room trying to find a shred of common ground." And the longer this lockout goes, the "clearer it gets: The biggest losers here are the fans." It will "take years -- if ever -- before those potential changes translate into a more entertaining game." Ghiroli: "Will fans, some already turned off or tuned out this winter, still care by then? ...  Will some fans go elsewhere?" Will they find themselves "reading about the NFL or the NBA with more frequency because baseball’s headlines are the same, frustrating mantra: no movement, no target start" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/24).

SBJ Spotlight: TikTok’s threat to traditional sports media

While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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