The pendulum has swung toward Major League Baseball and commissioner Rob Manfred just kicked off the process of thrusting it back the other way.
Negotiations between MLB and its players union over the financial guidelines of a salvaged 2020 season have lasted weeks, with the latest proposal coming from the MLBPA with a request for an 89-game season that includes full pro rata salaries for players and expanded postseasons for the next two years.
On Wednesday, Manfred appeared on MLB Network less than two hours before the start of the 2020 draft and guaranteed reporter Tom Verducci that a season would be played this year.
“We’re going to play baseball in 2020, one hundred percent,” Manfred said. “If it has to be under the March 26 agreement, if we get to that point in the calendar, so be it. But one way or the other, we’re playing Major League Baseball.”
However, the guarantee is backed by MLB’s assertion that it has the right to institute a season of approximately 50 games if an agreement can’t be reached.
“I remain committed to the idea that the best thing for our sport is to reach a negotiated agreement with the MLBPA that plays as many games as possible for our fans,” Manfred said. “We do have rights under the March 26 agreement and there could come a point in time where we exercise those rights.”
Manfred also said the league would be rejecting the union’s proposal and drafting up one of its own that takes some of the MLBPA’s requests into account—albeit not one specific request that’s been a major sticking point between the two sides: the full pro rata salaries that were agreed upon March 26 before the league maintains it became clear fans would not be in attendance for games.
“We’re hoping it’s a proposal that will illicit reciprocal movement from the players’ side, that they’ll get off the hundred percent salary demand and recognize that 89 games in this point in the calendar and in the pandemic is just not realistic,” Manfred said.
Even though the two sides remain far apart on the economic outline for a season, Manfred said they’re close to an agreement on how to best limit the risks of further spreading the coronavirus.
“We’re very, very close on the medical protocols,” Manfred said. “We provided the MLBPA with our last proposal, a comprehensive response to all of the comments that they gave us on the health protocols. We agreed or made a responsive suggestion to each and every issue they raised and I believe we really are close on those issues.”
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