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MLB return: Union fires back at commissioner, round and round they go

MLB return: Union fires back at commissioner, round and round they go

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.

RELATED: UNION TRIES TO FORCE OWNERS’ HAND AFTER SWIFTLY REJECTING LATEST OFFER

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.

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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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MLB return: Union tries to force owners’ hand after swiftly rejecting latest offer

MLB return: Union tries to force owners’ hand after swiftly rejecting latest offer

The Major League Baseball Players Association did not counter the league’s latest proposal Saturday. They punted it into the neighbor’s yard.

The MLBPA has now reached the point of daring the league to impose a 50-game season for full prorated pay. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred threatened to force such a move -- it appears both sides think he would be within his rights based on an agreement reached in March -- earlier in the week. Saturday, the union’s ambitious response to the league’s latest offer ostensibly told him, “Go ahead.”

Here is the statement from MLBPA executive director Tony Clark:

“Players want to play. It’s who we are and what we do.

“Since March, the Association has made it clear that our No. 1 focus is playing the fullest season possible, as soon as possible, as safely as possible. Players agreed to billions in monetary concessions as a means to that end, and in the face of repeated media leaks and misdirection we made additional proposals to inject new revenues into the industry -- proposals that would benefit the owners, players, broadcast partners, and fans alike.

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“It’s now become apparent that these efforts have fallen upon deaf ears. In recent days, owners have decried the supposed unprofitability of owning a baseball team and the Commissioner has repeatedly threatened to schedule a dramatically shortened season unless players agree to hundreds of millions in further concessions. Our response has been consistent that such concessions are unwarranted, would be fundamentally unfair to players, and that our sport deserves the fullest 2020 season possible. These remain our positions today, particularly in light of new reports regarding MLB’s national television rights -- information we requested from the league weeks ago but were never provided.

“As a result, it unfortunately appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile. It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”

So, let’s unpack that statement and the subsequent status of this petulant finger-pointing extravaganza.

First, to the players’ reaction to the league’s last offer. They laughed out loud. Literally.

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Philadelphia outfielder Andrew McCutchen made a comparative skit on Friday then released it on Twitter. He posed it as the league and the players talking. In the skit, he promised a child juice if he “went potty” properly. The child executed the task, then McCutchen tried to pawn water off in lieu of the juice despite the prior agreement. This is where we are.

Pittsburgh pitcher Trevor Williams quote-tweeted a reporter’s statement that the league proposal for a 72-game season at 70 percent of the previously agreed upon prorated pay, would expire Sunday and commented, “It expired as soon as they hit send.”

On his Twitter account, Sean Doolittle again lamented the idea of health waivers in order to play.
 
The trio’s dissatisfaction was a harbinger of Saturday’s fist-shaking letter and, according to ESPN, a directive to answer for the league to answer by Monday. Not helping was a news break from the New York Post on Saturday that the league and Turner Sports had agreed upon a new billion-dollar broadcast deal to air the LCS and part of the playoffs. According to the Post, the annual cost to retain those rights went from $350 million to $500 million. The report only served to further raise the players’ hackles. So, Clark included another dig there.

Which means baseball moved closer to a start and a farcical state. A 50-game season will not provide an authentic champion or legitimate MVP or Cy Young winner. It will not do anything other than drop some pennies into pockets instead of none. And, it will probably convince certain key players not to bother.

This was never expected to be easy. Both sides carry disdain for each other built across years of battling. Little beyond a grand, and not forthcoming, gesture will quell their vitriol. However, this also was not expected to be this hard. Yet it has become so.

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MLB return: Union fires back at owners in latest statement, reject additional concessions

MLB return: Union fires back at owners in latest statement, reject additional concessions

The latest whack of the negotiation tether ball came Thursday night when Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLBPA, issued a statement of discontent.

“In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone,” it began.

Clark went on to cite the league’s most recent suggestion of a “dramatically shortened” season “unless Players negotiate salary concessions.” The league suggested a 50-game season would be reasonable for the amount of money players agreed to in salary following a late-March negotiation.

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The statement went on to refer to the league’s stance as a “threat,” as opposed to the players' proposal, which in Clark’s view, was designed to move the negotiations forward. He rattled off the various items in the union’s proposal, which was framed around a 114-game season: more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals and the exploration of additional “jewel events” (All-Star Game, etc.).

Clark said a conference call with the MLBPA’s eight-person executive board, which includes Max Scherzer, and several other player leaders concluded “the league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.”

Clark went on to say the players are ready to compete and get back on the field.

The union’s reaction to MLB’s non-reaction is not a surprise. Players are adamant they are not taking further salary cuts. The league solidly believes salaries should -- and need to be -- negotiated if there is to be some form of 2020 season. Everyone continues to wait for a solution.

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