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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred now less confident there will be a 2020 season

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred now less confident there will be a 2020 season

Now, he’s not so sure.

Less than a week after saying there would “100 percent” be a baseball season in 2020, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred dialed down that statement Monday.

During a sitdown interview with ESPN for a Monday night special about the return of sports, the commissioner said, "I'm not confident. I think there's real risk; and as long as there's no dialogue, that real risk is gonna continue," when asked for his confidence level of a MLB season in 2020.

He went on to call the optics of the situation a “disaster for our game,” said the union ended “good-faith negotiations” and he is no longer 100 percent confident the season will happen in 2020.

The two sides spent the weekend sniping at each other and siphoning what little joy remained around the game’s possible return. Language from the union has backed the league into a corner. Now, everyone waits for the commissioner’s next move, one which will come after he puts doubt about the season into the public sphere.


Manfred has two options: impose a 50-game season or cave to the union’s proposal for 70-something games at full prorated pay.

Neither are good. The 50-game season is rife with problems. Caving to the players sets a tone for future negotiations about how the league will operate following the collective bargaining agreement expiring in 2021. They won’t forget the give and will become even more intolerant the next time.

Manfred also told ESPN he believes the union would just file a grievance if he imposes a 50-game-or-shorter season via the late-March agreement the two sides reached.

Room for negotiation departed during the weekend. Once the MLBPA settled forcibly on its no-negotiation stance Saturday, then dared the league to impose the shortened season, the back-and-forth of any value was over. The league turned back and tried to pin blame on the players Saturday night before Manfred doubled-down on the idea Monday in his ESPN interview.

“The MLBPA’s position that players are entitled to virtually all the revenue from a 2020 season played without fans is not fair to the thousands of other baseball employees that Clubs and our office are supporting financially during this very difficult 2020 season. We will evaluate the Union’s refusal to adhere to the terms of the March Agreement, and after consulting with ownership, determine the best course to bring baseball back to our fans,” the league said in a statement.


Internal letters between the sides have been leaked. Random tweets have not helped the tenor of negotiations, even if their premise was on point. Players have mocked the league on social media.

And, no one has defined the health protocol while coronavirus cases in Arizona and Florida, among other places, rise. Both were once viewed as an easier part of this process. Now, they are problematic.

The idea of baseball as a national salve has also departed. Larger issues are at hand. A sport which once promised to be part of countrywide healing during a pandemic is now catching head shakes, if it catches any attention at all. The process, timeline and goodwill have all been bungled by another baseball labor fight.

Monday was expected to put the situation closer to resolution. The owners reportedly hopped on a conference call with Manfred. Their choices to move forward are limited. Their reputations during this slopfest have also taken a rare hit. Typically, players carry blame in the public sphere when a financial squabble ensues. A recent, and unscientific, Twitter poll by Rob Friedman’s popular account, @pitchingninja, received 19,976 votes. Of those, 65 percent said they were on the players’ side in all of this. In second place? “Neither” with 27 percent. The owners? They received 4.8 percent of support.

So, a new question has been introduced by the commissioner Monday: will there even be a season? It joins the other queries steeped in this problematic process. The only constant is this has been good for no one.

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Stephen Strasburg’s debut shows he still has a ways to go

Stephen Strasburg’s debut shows he still has a ways to go

WASHINGTON -- Elegant pitching took place in the top of the fourth inning Sunday when Anthony Santander led off the inning.

Stephen Strasburg threw him a 79-mph curveball for a called strike. An 87-mph changeup was a ball. Another changeup produced a swinging strike. A third consecutive changeup led to another swinging strike and an out.

Strasburg needed just 43 pitches to finish four innings in his season debut. The problem was he went to pitch the fifth -- and that his achy right hand still has mild issues.

He recorded one out, faded rapidly and was removed after allowing five sudden runs. The hook was too late. The Nationals fell behind, 5-0, and were on the verge of a weekend sweep at the hands of the Orioles and a troublesome 4-8 record before the game was suspended because of oddball circumstances with a malfunctioning tarp.

“You can look at the negative, or you can look at the positive,” Strasburg said. “I think there was a lot more positives. I'm just going to focus on that. Obviously command and execution wasn't very good there in the fifth. They just hit a bunch of singles and found the right spots. So they made me pay for it.”

Strasburg’s start came two weeks after he was supposed to be on the game mound for the first time in 2020. A right wrist impingement caused a nerve problem in his right hand, which led to pain in his thumb. All of the issues with the hand subsided after time off and treatment. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday. Sunday, “Seven Nation Army” poured out of the stadium speakers for the first time this season.

The first four innings showed a pitcher with lowered velocity, but exceptional command. In essence, Strasburg looked like himself. Plenty of curveballs, changeups and outs. Of his 69 pitches, 37 were curveballs or changeups.


Javy Guerra quickly worked to warm up when Strasburg faltered in the fifth inning. The first out of the inning came on a 101.1-mph line drive from Dwight Smith Jr. It was a harbinger.

Austin Hays hit a line drive to right field. Chance Sisco hit a line drive to right field. Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard came up the dugout steps to head toward the mound because Strasburg shook his right hand. Strasburg waived them back to their spots, though there was an issue.

“To be honest, I felt it,” Strasburg said of his hand pain. “I don't know if it was necessarily like fatigue or just not having necessarily the stamina built up quite yet. But it's something where I don't think I'm doing any long-term harm on it. But it does have an impact on being able to feel the baseball and being able to commit to pitches. That's something I haven't quite figured out how to pitch through it yet, so I think the goal is to continue to get built up and get the pitch count up to where that won't be flaring up over the course of the start.”

He walked the next batter. Pitching coach Paul Menhart went to talk to him. This, presumably, is when Strasburg should have been removed from the game. He was left in.

Bryan Holaday singled. A run scored. Hanser Alberto doubled. Two runs scored. Santander singled. Two runs scored.

Guerre came in. Strasburg departed.

The good news is Strasburg finally made a start in 2020. And, Max Scherzer is expected to return to the mound on Tuesday in New York.

The bad news is 25 percent of Strasburg’s potential starts are over. Starting pitchers were only in line for 12 this year. He missed two, then failed in the fifth inning in what would have been his third start. That gives him nine to go -- if the season makes it to the end -- with a hand that isn’t quite right.


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Davey Martinez defends Nationals' grounds crew following tarp snafu

Davey Martinez defends Nationals' grounds crew following tarp snafu

Sunday's matchup between the Nationals and Orioles came to a halt in the sixth inning due to a brief rainstorm, but the game was delayed and eventually suspended after the grounds crew had multiple issues unraveling the tarp to cover the infield.

For much of the rainfall, the infield and pitcher's mound in Nationals Park were exposed. As the rain continued to fall, the dirt turned into slushy mud.

Despite the grounds crew's inability to properly cover the field, which ended up being the reason for the game's suspension, Nationals manager Davey Martinez refused to place blame on the crew.

"Feel bad for our grounds crew," Martinez said to reporters after the game was called off. "Personally, these guys, to me, are the best if not one of the best. Unfortunate that that happened."


The whole situation was a perfect metaphor for 2020 as a whole, a year of chaos and unexpected twists and turns, mostly in a negative fashion.

While Sunday's game came to a finish prematurely, Martinez said all his team can do is keep moving forward and be ready to play the New York Mets on Monday at Citi Field.

"There’s going to be days when you don’t know what to expect. This is part of it," Martinez said. "So, we just got to keep moving on. At the end of the game, I told the guys, pack up, we’re going to New York. Get ready to play [Monday]. That’s all we can do."

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