Less than two hours after ESPN reported MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was less confident a season would happen in 2020, the players’ association fired off another missive.
“Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season. Any implication that the Players Association has somehow delayed progress on health and safety protocols is completely false, as Rob has recently acknowledged the parties are ‘very, very close.’ This latest threat is just one more indication Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning. This has always been about extracting additional pay cuts from Players and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign.”
The 2020 season is in serious jeopardy. Both sides have upped their rancor in recent days. Manfred said earlier in the day he was less confident about a 2020 season happening after the MLBPA asked him for a “when and where” season start over the weekend.
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” and accused the union of negotiating in bad faith.
"I had been hopeful that once we got to common ground on the idea that we were gonna pay the players' full prorated salary, that we would get some cooperation in terms of proceeding under the agreement that we negotiated with the MLBPA on March 26," Manfred told ESPN. "Unfortunately, over the weekend, while Tony Clark was declaring his desire to get back to work, the union's top lawyer was out telling reporters, players and eventually getting back to owners that as soon as we issued a schedule -- as they requested -- they intended to file a grievance claiming they were entitled to an additional billion dollars. Obviously, that sort of bad-faith tactic makes it extremely difficult to move forward in these circumstances."
Manfred is in a tight spot. He either imposes the 50-game season and possibly ends up fighting a large grievance from the union or he comes up on games and off any further salary cut, which means he caves to the players, and costs the owners more money.
Players predictably blasted his comments on social media Monday. The union’s retort was also predictable.
This back-and-forth has reached its final stages. Manfred is contradicting his own flat statements -- he guaranteed a 2020 season in back-to-back interviews last week. The players have dug in. Owners will have to decide which avenue to go down.
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