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Thursday, February 04, 2021

Yahoo Sports Report: Biden administration officials pitch MLB on delaying season 1 month for vaccinations

Senior officials of the Biden administration spoke with MLB last week about a one-month delay for the season while getting players vaccinated in time for opening day, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Rather than join the meeting, the MLB Players Association reportedly opted to schedule its own discussion with the same officials at a later date, out of concern it would be pressured to agree to the delay. The union will hear the same pitch.

Administration officials reportedly told MLB they were confident in their ability to vaccinate players in time for the delayed season due to the expected introduction of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is expected to be filed for FDA approval within a week.

Rosenthal reports that the delay will not take place, barring the COVID-19 situation changing.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 04, 2021 at 01:20 AM | 47 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: coronavirus

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   1. JRVJ Posted: February 04, 2021 at 11:09 AM (#6003714)
If one moves away from the entrenched MLB and MLBPA world views, and concentrates on the fact that the worst pandemic the world had seen in over 100 years is raging (*), it makes all the sense in the world to postpone the start of the season.

Alas......

(*) A pandemic that has killed over 400K Americans and will kill a couple hundred thousand more, plus over 1.8MM other people in the rest of the world.
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 04, 2021 at 01:29 PM (#6003757)
Rather than join the meeting, the MLB Players Association reportedly opted to schedule its own discussion with the same officials at a later date, out of concern it would be pressured to agree to the delay. The union will hear the same pitch.
Oh, FFS. Grow up.

Stuff like this is why I’m less of a pro-player absolutist than most here.
   3. . Posted: February 04, 2021 at 03:00 PM (#6003787)
Oh, FFS. Grow up.

Stuff like this is why I’m less of a pro-player absolutist than most here.


Yeah, the best reasons to not be a pro-player absolutist is that pro-player absolutism is a strange mixture of fanboy and envy and we should be neither fanboy nor envious, and that the players already make way too much money for hitting and throwing a ball -- but this works, too.

But with that said, I hope the players aren't somehow getting a chance to jump the line. I didn't read TFA.
   4. Tom Goes to the Ballpark Posted: February 04, 2021 at 03:29 PM (#6003792)
I think there is a lot of merit to delaying the season by a month IF there are going to be people in the stands. After last season it is reasonable to expect the vast majority of players to be careful for a few months until they are fully vaccinated. Plus, it is likely that many, if not most, of those unwilling to be careful already have had Covid-19 and likely have antibodies. So it seems like player safety would be a hard sell.

It was also pretty clear from the LCS and World Series that if fans are in attendance they will not be particularly careful and mask wearing will be sporadic. March and April are, hopefully, going to be huge vaccination months so those 4 weeks should decrease the risk by a significant amount. It would still be possible to have a 162 game season if teams played a doubleheader every week (might need to do a few other minor tweaks as well). However, you could get nearly all the benefits by playing the first month without fans. Also, delaying the season now, after players have already started ramping up training, should put the onus on owners to make a concession for this IMO.
   5. JRVJ Posted: February 04, 2021 at 04:16 PM (#6003806)
4, it's not just players safety, though.

It's the safety of the players, the coaches, administrative personnel, stadium personnel and umpires.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 04, 2021 at 04:23 PM (#6003809)
Exactly. Why does absolutely everything, always have to be seen in terms of extracting concessions? Can't, for once, the players be open to working together to come up with a plan for the pandemic that makes sense? Not saying they have to give the owners everything they want - just take that overall approach rather than "well, what will you give us??"
   7. The Duke Posted: February 04, 2021 at 04:26 PM (#6003811)
All MLB has to do is get the umpires to refuse to show up on time - voila, problem solved
   8. Ron J Posted: February 04, 2021 at 04:33 PM (#6003815)
#5 And the general web of people they interact with.
   9. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: February 04, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6003818)
Exactly. Why does absolutely everything, always have to be seen in terms of extracting concessions?


Well, I mean pretty much everything both owners and players do is in the context of the upcoming contract negotiations(and the existing contract). They would be idiots if they didn't consider it. This is their job, not a fun hobby like it is for fans. I get watching the sausage being made is kind of icky, but I don't blame the sausage makers.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 04, 2021 at 05:06 PM (#6003824)
I guess if there's one thing this pandemic has proven, it's that nothing transcends our adversarial stances anymore, and we don't have the ability to collectively rise above for any reason. So why would MLB labor relations be any different?

Sigh.
   11. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: February 04, 2021 at 05:54 PM (#6003827)
Can't, for once, the players be open to working together to come up with a plan for the pandemic that makes sense? Not saying they have to give the owners everything they want - just take that overall approach rather than "well, what will you give us??"
The next time the owners are "open to working together to come up with a plan" for anything that doesn't prioritize their own profits/valuations will be the first. The players are simply using what leverage they have to do likewise.
   12. villageidiom Posted: February 04, 2021 at 06:11 PM (#6003832)
Billy, MLBPA agrees with you. MLB already proposed a delayed start, with player concessions attached. Had it been without concessions MLBPA might have been inclined to accept.

I for one think this is good. If they delay the season, I think it's important to work out whether the season will start on May 1 or on whatever date 100% of personnel will be vaccinated, and whether spring training will also be delayed or simply extended, and what safeguards will be in place in spring training, and whether players can opt out of the vaccine and stoll play, and all that. Like, they can both agree to delay the season while having completely different thoughts on what it means to delay the season. Fewer games? Same games but end the regular season by Halloween? No days off? Doubleheaders every week?

I think it's less about MLBPA trying to extract concessions than it is about MLBPA recognizing (a) agreement is not that simple but (b) it wouldn't stop MLB from throwing MLBPA under the bus if they came out of the meeting with the feds without an agreement.
   13. Tom Goes to the Ballpark Posted: February 04, 2021 at 07:08 PM (#6003833)
I guess if there's one thing this pandemic has proven, it's that nothing transcends our adversarial stances anymore, and we don't have the ability to collectively rise above for any reason. So why would MLB labor relations be any different?

Sigh.
The players and owners actually did this in the March 2020 agreement. Then the owners tried to renegotiate through the media when they decided the agreement wasn’t as much in their favor as they anticipated.
   14. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 04, 2021 at 07:13 PM (#6003834)
Can't, for once, the players be open to working together to come up with a plan for the pandemic that makes sense?
Blaming the players seems to often be the default reaction around here. Let’s be clear on what was happening. MLB offered the players a compressed 154-game schedule, ostensibly at full pay, but giving Manfred discretion to further curtail the season. MLB also wanted more playoffs (and the lion’s share of that revenue) and offered the universal DH as a sweetener for the players. The MLBPA was already pretty clear about its lack of enthusiasm for that type of a deal. And it’s not like they snubbed anyone. There is no Secretary of Health & Human Services, or Secretary of Labor, yet, and no one was offering a sit-down with Biden. Apparently, some anonymous WH staffers thought getting together with MLB to pressure the MLBPA was a good idea, and are now leaking about that effort.

I wonder if the reaction would have been the same if the prior Administration had colluded with industry management to get a union to give up hard earned gains achieved only after many decades of collective bargaining?
   15. Tom Goes to the Ballpark Posted: February 04, 2021 at 07:14 PM (#6003835)
4, it's not just players safety, though.

It's the safety of the players, the coaches, administrative personnel, stadium personnel and umpires.
I agree, but it shouldn’t be solely upon the players to protect those other entities. MLBPA’s duty is to its membership. I doubt that the players want to put anyone at risk, but that responsibility/liability falls primarily on ownership.

After what happened with the March 2020 Covid agreement it is only natural that MLBPA would be wary of any negotiations with ownership.
   16. JRVJ Posted: February 04, 2021 at 09:00 PM (#6003843)
15, we can argue about this until the cows come home, but I am old enough to remember when Dr Faucci suggested that the baseball season end before the Fall. while MLBPA proposed that the 2020 postseason go deep into November.


Mind you: I hope MLBPA cleans MLB's clock in the next CBA. But in re: the pandemic, I do not agree with their actions and stances.
   17. villageidiom Posted: February 04, 2021 at 10:10 PM (#6003849)
A little more detail...

A 162-game season, spanning between 182 and 187 calendar days, is in the CBA. Spring training opening voluntarily for pitchers and catchers no more than 43 days before opening day, for other players no more than 38 days before opening day, and compulsory arrival no more than 33 days before opening day, is in the CBA.

If they agree to delay the season until May 1, then per the CBA pitchers and catchers can't report before March 19, and other players can't report before March 24, and no player can be forced to report before March 29. The season would start May 1 and would be required to be completed between October 29 and November 3, with the playoffs following that.

Thus, absent any discussion of concessions or conditions, an agreement to delay Opening Day to May 1 will result in the playoffs mostly occurring in November, with Game 7 of the World Series falling around Thanksgiving.

If we're talking about wanting nobody to extract concessions, or place conditions, then that's what we're talking about. Anything other than that is a condition or a concession. I'm not entirely sure MLBPA has a say in what day Opening Day is, but everything above is per the CBA what must happen if May 1 is the start date.

And all of that assumes a start date of "May 1, by which time players should be vaccinated" and not "whatever date by which players are vaccinated, which we hope is May 1". If I'm a player, that's a significant difference in language, enough so that it needs to be spelled out in the agreement to delay the season, along with what must happen if players aren't vaccinated by May 1.

Tony Clark can be criticized plenty, but he's doing his job here - and not in a devious sense, but in the most fundamental sense. If we're going to criticize Tony Clark it damn well better be for his 2002 season, which I still think was as horrendous as it was because he spent the season focusing on the new CBA. It's pretty easy to pick out from his BB-Ref page the 2 seasons he served as a player rep in CBA negotiations. That 2002 season sucked. I'm still pissed about it.
   18. JRVJ Posted: February 05, 2021 at 09:34 AM (#6003880)
17, as posted in a recent thread, OF COURSE the owners are pushing to start the season later for selfish reasons (they want to get more fans on seats).

There may be a slight humanitarian issue at play here, too (i.e., I doubt owners WANT their coaches, administrative personnel and stadium personnel to get COVID), but let's not mince words about the motivation here.

The thing here is that if you view the issue from the standpoint of the pandemic, it ALSO benefits the players to delay the start of the season, as it decreases the risk THEY will get COVID. And if the U.S. does vaccinated 45 to 60MM people per month (that's what the numbers seem to be), it also means that pushing the start of the season back by a month decreases the amount of time players have to be in a very strict bubble.

MLBPA did raise what could be a valid issue (compressing the season / playing multiple double headers could lead to more baseball injuries), but that's something that could have been dealt with via negotiation.

Yes, the owners are pushing for the delay for money reasons, but the MLBPA is acting in a way that puts in members (and their families) in more risk of catching COVID (yeah, yeah, MLBPA fears that any concessions to MLB will hurt them vis-a-vis the next CBA negotiations, but it's not hard to envision a scenario where a player actually dies from COVID or becomes permanently incapacitated from it. Think BoSox's Eduardo Rodríguez' heart problems, but on steroids).
   19. bunyon Posted: February 05, 2021 at 09:47 AM (#6003882)
JRVJ, which means a compromise should be possible. It doesn't mean the players should just absorb all the cuts. If starting later is financially advantageous to the owners, the owners should be willing/able to share that financial gain with the players.

That is, if starting later makes financial sense for the owners, why should the players take a loss to make that happen? The owners want the players to pay to take the option that is better financially for the owners.

I agree that starting later is better for the players in terms of Covid but 1) Covid isn't the main reason the owners want to start late and 2) most MLB players, like much of the US, doesn't give a fiddly damn about Covid.

I'm certainly less on the side of players here than I am in the CBA negotiations but just because the owners are asking for the smart move doesn't mean they're doing so for the right reasons and not trying to take advantage of the players. If the owners really want to start late, they should be willing to make some concessions and guarantees as well.
   20. JRVJ Posted: February 05, 2021 at 09:54 AM (#6003884)
19, the thing is, in order to reach a compromise, you have to actually engage in negotiations.

The one thing that is clear in all this is that MLBPA was unwilling to engage in negotiations about these issues. That may be a negotiating position in and of itself (keep rejecting offers until offers get so good that any compromise is going to heavily tilt your way), but since the damn pandemic is still raging, it just seems like a foolhardy position.

Two things on which we agree: Most MLB players don't seem to give a damn about the pandemic (at least at a Union level) and owners aren't doing this out of the goodness of their hearts (which I thought was clear from my 18)
   21. bunyon Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:16 AM (#6003887)
True, negotiation is important. However, they negotiated a deal last year and the owners reneged. And the owners offer this time is, basically, "We stand to make more money if we start late, so let us cut your pay and remove guarantees in order to start late."

How do you negotiate with that? The owners clearly aren't willing to pay what the CBA says with a late start. Negotiations are tough when you're a million miles apart.

EDIT to add: Yeah, MLBPA should negotiate, but they shouldn't trust the owners at all. If the owners want something, they should expect to give something.
   22. . Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:37 AM (#6003888)
There's no reason to spend a second of brainpower on this niche, outlier union. One can only conclude that people with no actual skin in the game do it only because they feel they must to maintain their internet persona and self-image. I'd simply recommend again that those who actually and really care about leverage imbalances between management and labor can easily find far more worthy places and avenues for their time and energy than the silly MLBPA. You don't *have* to have a position on all this to be the baseball fans you want to be.
   23. bunyon Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:42 AM (#6003889)
I'd recommend worrying about how others spend their few minutes coffee break isn't necessary to being the fan you want to be, either.


   24. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:43 AM (#6003890)
The upcoming CBA negotiation is also changing things. Neither side wants to give up something that they want to use as leverage in a few months.
   25. . Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:43 AM (#6003891)
If all people spend is a few minutes coffee break, they can't have thought things through enough to warrant any kind of attention in the first instance.
   26. nick swisher hygiene Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:46 AM (#6003892)
22–Writes the man with no stake in a persona of any sort....
   27. JRVJ Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:48 AM (#6003893)
24, which seems absolutely nuts, considering that there are already 400K people dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. And that number is going to climb to at least 500K before long.

Again, baseball players have been pretty lucky that the worst of the affected players seems to be Eduardo Rodríguez, and he apparently has recovered fully from a pretty scary heart condition.

   28. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:53 AM (#6003894)
#27 - IANAL, but I think the union has a legal responsibility to act in their membership's best interests. Maybe you think that means surrender leverage for the upcoming negotiation in the name of public health, but I think there is room to disagree.

Both sides are negotiating in the midst of a pandemic, both sides are trying to get leverage for this year and the next. Right or wrong, that is how they are acting.
   29. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 05, 2021 at 11:09 AM (#6003898)
The players asked for a separate meeting rather than a joint one with MLB. I can’t understand why that’s even worth commenting on.

Some of the people here who profess not to be anti-player were pretty hard on Andrelton Simmons when he opted out of the season last year, which we later found out was due to mental health issues. I think it’s understandable why players have their guard up around these issues.
   30. bunyon Posted: February 05, 2021 at 11:22 AM (#6003902)
<i> . Posted: February 05, 2021 at 10:43 AM (#6003891)
If all people spend is a few minutes coffee break, they can't have thought things through enough to warrant any kind of attention in the first instance.,/i>

And yet, here you are.



Mouse, that's my take. Yes, there is a terrible pandemic. If the country had come together to face it together, it would be one thing. But the US, by not really having a coherent response, has made it clear that it's every man for himself. The "essential" worker has born the brunt of illness while also suffering financial hardship. Those who could shelter and hide have also done well financially.

I quite agree that MLB vs. MLBPA has no one all that sympathetic and no one is going to lose their home or starve. But the pervasive idea that the workers need to sacrifice while the owners/employers don't is bullshit. MLBPA should work with MLB, local, state and federal government to put on baseball as safely as possible but it is not up to them to ensure the owners make a profit or to make all the sacrifice.

Yeah, I'd rather see that nurses, grocery workers, Amazon employees get their due than baseball players. But, you know, this is a baseball board.
   31. JRVJ Posted: February 05, 2021 at 11:46 AM (#6003905)
28,
Maybe you think that means surrender leverage for the upcoming negotiation in the name of public health, but I think there is room to disagree.


That's an amazing way to spin the issue. Congrats.

In essence, this is what you are sasying: "The Union should put their members at an increased risk of catching a deadly virus in order to not surrender leverage for the upcoming negotiation, but I think there is room to disagree".
   32. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 05, 2021 at 12:00 PM (#6003907)
Blaming the players seems to often be the default reaction around here.
What?? There are, like, three of us here who don't immediately side with the union on everything. The only more staunchly pro-player/anti-owner bunch is Fangraphs, and they'd put a paragraph of anti-owner language in a recipe for lasagna.
   33. Ron J Posted: February 05, 2021 at 12:11 PM (#6003908)
#31 Or the union should do their level best to reflect the wishes of their membership. The players by and large aren't terribly concerned about personally catching Covid. They're young, fit and as a group not terribly risk adverse.

And yes, this general line of reasoning is precisely why the situation with Covid is as bad as it is inn the US.

The problem as has been mentioned really isn't the athletes but the web of people that interact with the players. How many degrees before you get to (say) somebody working in a retirement home. (It's particularly bad since one of the new variants is an extremely efficient spreader)

And to me this suggest the way to approach this to get more buy in from the players. Pitching it as player safety is going to go nowhere. Pitching is as responsibility to the community might.
   34. Ron J Posted: February 05, 2021 at 12:15 PM (#6003909)
#32 Specifically on this issue though a lot of people have started out with players should just go along with this.

And frankly this likely would be a non-issue if there was a modicum of trust in ownership.

But since ownership has literally never demonstrated any good faith ...
   35. JRVJ Posted: February 05, 2021 at 12:22 PM (#6003910)
33, I'm not entirely sure that the Union is reflecting the wishes of their membership, in the sense that we don't know who is positioning the issue and how.

But I'll agree that MLBPA is not acting as if the pandemic is the most important thing in the world AND they are not acting in a way that would seem to reflect their concern for people with which they are interconnected directly or indirectly (FWIW, you make a good point here).
   36. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 05, 2021 at 12:25 PM (#6003911)
But since ownership has literally never demonstrated any good faith ...

I dunno, we had a couple of decades of labor peace after the last strike, as we were reminded ad nauseum when Selig retired. It's hard to have that kind of stability if one side is consistently acting in bad faith.

It seems obvious to me that the players' biggest problem is that front offices finally wised up to the folly of long-term deals. So the union needs to pivot with the next CBA and go for a guaranteed cut of the revenue pie like they do in other sports.

What?? There are, like, three of us here who don't immediately side with the union on everything.

I think this place is pretty middle of the road. Just look at that old Simmons thread and you can see that many if not most here are not reflexively pro player.
   37. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: February 05, 2021 at 12:49 PM (#6003915)
But I'll agree that MLBPA is not acting as if the pandemic is the most important thing in the world AND they are not acting in a way that would seem to reflect their concern for people with which they are interconnected directly or indirectly (FWIW, you make a good point here).


So like the owners then.
   38. JRVJ Posted: February 05, 2021 at 12:59 PM (#6003917)
36, Personally, I think Tony Clark and his inner MLBPA group are absolutely ticked off that MLB cleaned their clock during the last round of CBA negotiations.

Either because they think their position as heads of MLBPA are in jeopardy or out of personal pique due to being so badly outmanouvered by MLB last time out, they are being extremely pig-headed.

Two minor comments in addition to that: (a) In my experience as a business attorney, it's VERY counterproductive to humiliate your counterparties, especially if you have an ongoing relationship (i.e., MLB's position in regards the last CBA);

(b) It's damn unprofessional to take it out on your counterparty if you were a sloppy or bad negotiator (i.e., MLBPA's position after the last CBA).


37, There's a difference, which is that what the owners are proposing (delaying the start of the season) actually could help those to which they are interrelated.

As stated a number of times upthread, this is not being done out of the goodness of their hearts (I doubt owners have any such goodness).
   39. Mellow Mouse, Benevolent Space Tyrant Posted: February 05, 2021 at 01:15 PM (#6003920)
37, There's a difference, which is that what the owners are proposing (delaying the start of the season) actually could help those to which they are interrelated.


You are right, this is not done out of any generosity. The problem is that the owners will use the pandemic as a cudgel as much as possible to extract concessions. The players will also, but right now the owners have a slightly "nicer" line of attack. Neither side can afford to abandon their goals and allow the other to extract too much, because once gone it is much harder to get back.

I am not saying the players are better or worse than the owners. I think both are reacting to a bad situation, a situation that is made worse by the upcoming CBA negotiations.
   40. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 05, 2021 at 01:34 PM (#6003924)
The fact that this story was leaked to Rosenthal, with the negative spin it had, makes me a bit suspicious of the owners. That being said, I try not to get personally invested in negotiations between two groups of people who are generally much wealthier than I am.
   41. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 05, 2021 at 01:49 PM (#6003930)
And the Biden administration is asking the players to make what concessions to the owners?
   42. spycake Posted: February 05, 2021 at 02:13 PM (#6003934)
Apparently, some anonymous WH staffers thought getting together with MLB to pressure the MLBPA was a good idea, and are now leaking about that effort.

What's your evidence that the White House is leaking any of this information, rather than MLB ownership? Given that this report comes from Ken Rosenthal, I'm guessing his sources are more likely inside MLB than in the White House.
   43. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 05, 2021 at 03:00 PM (#6003944)
I dunno, we had a couple of decades of labor peace after the last strike, as we were reminded ad nauseum when Selig retired. It's hard to have that kind of stability if one side is consistently acting in bad faith.
Let’s remember the context. That ‘labor peace’ came after MLB was caught red-handed in multiple attempts at collusion, and was found not to have bargained in good faith during the 1994-95 work stoppage. That Selig & his henchmen poorly positioned MLB for further shenanigans isn't the best evidence of their actual motives.
   44. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 05, 2021 at 03:22 PM (#6003953)
Given that this report comes from Ken Rosenthal, I'm guessing his sources are more likely inside MLB than in the White House.
That’s possible, but those White House officials would have to be awfully naive to think that word of such a meeting wouldn’t be leaked. That’s reason enough to avoid being entangled with MLB’s collective bargaining process. If the Biden Administration thinks starting spring training & the regular season on time is unsafe, it should say so publicly, and share its reasoning. The positions which would normally have the most clout on such issues, the Secretaries of Labor and Health & Human Services are both still vacant, so its more than a little unclear as to who was calling the shots and what the goal was.
   45. Zonk Can Sell Culture Posted: February 05, 2021 at 05:10 PM (#6003995)
Saying whatever is on ones mind aloud certainly has an awesome recent record of being the smart move.
   46. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 05, 2021 at 05:33 PM (#6004009)
36, Personally, I think Tony Clark and his inner MLBPA group are absolutely ticked off that MLB cleaned their clock during the last round of CBA negotiations.

I should probably go back and review what happened with the last round of negotiations but weren't the changes relatively minor? Like there were adjustments to the luxury tax and revenue sharing, but that wouldn't affect teams' unwillingness to give long term deals to non-elite FAs. The union needs to work on more structural problems with the CBA - getting players to free agency earlier, increasing pre-FA compensation, agreeing to a revenue split - that weren't really on the radar in prior CBA negotiations, iirc.
   47. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: February 05, 2021 at 07:26 PM (#6004032)
If the Biden Administration thinks starting spring training & the regular season on time is unsafe, it should say so publicly, and share its reasoning.

Why? It’s a decision of MLB and the players; going to the public to make your case without consulting with those two groups first has little upside and is just as likely to blindside and therefore piss off the two organizations whose buy-in you need.

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