MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday night that he's no longer confident there will be a 2020 season, walking back his comment last week that he was "100 percent" sure baseball would be played.
This, on the day Spring Training 2 should have begun.
In reality, Manfred is not speaking for himself but for the 30 owners he represents. It seems pretty clear that Manfred's comments Monday were designed to restart negotiations with the union, yet again. As in ... it's more posturing. It's all posturing. Neverending posturing. Posturing has become one of the six tools.
What is the point of a commissioner in any sport if they fail to protect the game against the harm being done to it? We call these commissioners figureheads all the time, but if the commish is going to act solely as the personal protector for owners no matter what, then what are we even doing here? Why even title that position "commissioner?" Just call it the Steward of Billionaires or something.
Maybe these owners think that fans will forget and just be happy for the return of baseball if it goes away for a year and comes back. If they do, they are mistaken.
Here is what some of our other baseball people had to say:
Phillies insider Jim Salisbury:
This whole thing is repulsive. Baseball is supposed to be a social institution, and in these times, we need it more than ever to set an example of how to get along, not squabble over money when both sides already have plenty of it.
Over the past couple of years, I've heard a lot of dissatisfaction in clubhouses with the last collective bargaining agreement that the union agreed to. Management took a stern tone with its first offer to bring the game back weeks ago and all that did was galvanize the players in their resolve not to accept anything less than a 100 percent prorate of their salaries and create bad blood. Now, you wonder if that resolve and bad blood will lead the players to strike next summer before the CBA expires.
It's clear the owners are losing revenues and will continue to do so with no fans in the stands, but news of a new billion-dollar TV deal makes it difficult to muster too much sympathy for them. And why is management, when it thinks it's doing the right thing, trying to prevent a union of all things from filing a grievance? Are they afraid something might come out in the legal wash that they'd prefer to keep under wraps?
Not giving the players what they want and playing some type of season might be pennywise and pound foolish for the MLB business as a shutdown would seriously hurt all sides in the long run. The union is clinging to the idea that it was told players would be paid a 100 percent prorate when the season got going. MLB says it informed the union that it maintained the right to renegotiate those terms if games were played with no fans in the stands.
Why was there such ambiguity in this from the beginning? Sounds like there was a communication problem long ago and now the commissioner is backtracking from his vow to play. At least he got one thing right. This is a disaster.
Phillies pre/postgame live analyst Ricky Bottalico:
Pathetic. This is just depressing. It will ruin the game.
They cannot continue to argue this through the media. When I played and we had a labor dispute, arguments were made through the media but thousands of people couldn't instantly react to it like they do now with social media. It fans the flames.
There's just too much crap going on in the world right now for this.
2008 Phillies documentary producer Brian Brennan:
It's easy to pile on Manfred, but the commissioner simply does the bidding for MLB's owners, who seem perfectly content to let him take the social media bullets for this standoff with the players.
If the owners want the fans to understand their side of the issue, they need to lay out the financial situation. They need to show everyone how much money they'd be losing by playing games without fans in the stands. There are reports that the league would lose more than $600,000 for each game played without fans in the stands. Show us that.
Phillies pre/postgame live host Michael Barkann:
Do the owners (OK, and the players) realize that fans will not return to the game? Do they remember 25 years ago that they failed to return in 1995 when baseball resumed after the 1994 strike? That year, 47 games, the playoffs and the World Series were canceled for the first time since 1904.
In 1995 when baseball returned? Attendance fell an average of nearly 6,000 persons per game — about 20% below the season before. The owners might beg for a 20% dip by the time fans are eventually allowed back in the stands.
Phillies digital video editor Spencer McKercher:
I've had friends, all under the age of 25, telling me they're done with the sport and how no matter what, they won't come back. That's going to continue if this doesn't get resolved. There's no hiding who is right and who is wrong in this situation.
The owners can actually gain long-lasting devotion from fans by playing a season despite the financial losses. They risk significantly greater losses in the future if baseball doesn't return.
Right now, they are losing the PR battle by refusing to explain their case to the fans.
Phillies pre/postgame live producer Sean Kane:
I think there will still be a 2020 MLB season. My read on the current state of negotiations is that the owners are trying to buy some more time so they can play as few games as possible, which in turn limits the amount of money they'll lose without fans in the ballpark.
Think about that logic. The owners want to play as few games as possible. Talk about alienating your fanbase. Considering what is going on in the world, the lack of awareness from MLB right now is nothing short of staggering. They are squandering a golden opportunity to be at the forefront of the healing process.
Longtime Phillies producer Casey Feeney:
I was sure my words would be laced with anger. But then they weren't.
While I see what most of you see and what my co-workers have correctly stated above, I choose to stand in the driveway a little while longer, boombox-over-head, awaiting a change in baseball's heart.
It still might just heal itself so that it can play a small role in our collective healing. 2020 has been as trying a year as this 35-year old can remember. Cynicism rules the day and for good reason. It's simple, and perhaps truthful in these times, to say baseball is not important. But it is meaningful. It's the game of the optimist.
The two sides need to set a Friday 3 p.m. deadline to work out a deal. Lock the room, hammer it out. Stop trying to win the deal and start trying to make a deal. For the good of the game.
Remember what that means?