MLB players don’t seem confident they’ll play in 2020 after commissioner Rob Manfred’s latest comments.
For as long as the negotiations to start the 2020 baseball season have been going on, both the MLB owners and players maintained confidence it would happen. Even when talks became contentious they didn’t give up hope. They don’t sound like that now.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, five days after saying he was “100 percent” confident a season would happen this year, went on ESPN and told host Mike Greenberg there is a real possibility there will be no Major League Baseball in 2020.
“I’m not confident,” he said. “I think there’s real risk, and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is gonna continue.”
The Players Association informed the owners on Friday that they were rejecting the latest offer—which called for players to take an additional 25 percent pay cut in a 72-game season—and wouldn’t be making a counter-offer. Instead, they wanted Manfred to just tell them when to report to camp and what type of season he would unilaterally be implementing.
Manfred has the authority, under the March 26 agreement, to set a schedule if talks aren’t conducted in “good faith.” The definition of that phrase if what’s separating the owners from the players.
Manfred claimed on Monday that the union was planning to immediately file a grievance seeking an additional billion dollars as soon as he announced a schedule. The owners want the players to waive that legal right in order to play. According to multiple players on social media, that won’t be happening.
The mistrust between the owners and players has reached a critical point, especially with the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring following the 2021 season. Some players believe that Manfred is just stalling with his latest comments, wasting valuable time so he could force a 48-game season on them instead of a schedule in excess of 70 games that they want.
Sitting out the entire 2020 season over money when the country is starving for sports and millions have been laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic would be a calamity for a league seeking to stay relevant in the modern sports landscape. Manfred recognizes this hard reality and the damage that’s already been done with this lengthy and contentious dispute.
“It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it,” he said. “It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans.”
There is no easy way forward for the owners and the union from this point. The chances of them coming to an agreement now seem to be shrinking all the time. Baseball took a step backward on Monday, and it might cost the sport an entire season.