5:45pm: Clark has issued a statement in response to Manfred’s remarks: “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans that there would “100%” be a 2020 season, he has decided to go 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 that 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.”
3:58pm: As of last week, commissioner Rob Manfred was fully confident there would be a 2020 Major League Baseball Season. That’s no longer the case, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Manfred told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg on Monday that he’s “not confident” a season will occur because of the lack of dialogue between the league and the union.
This is a quick about-face from Manfred, who declared June 10, “We’re going to play baseball in 2020 — 100 percent.” Since then, though, the union rejected the league’s latest proposal, which was not a surprise after MLB once again fell well short of promising the players the 100 percent prorated salaries they have been banking on receiving. Owners have since turned their attention to the best way to play a season while keeping everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but if we’re to take Manfred’s sudden pessimism at face value, it may be a moot point.
In defending the owners, Manfred told Greenberg: “The owners are a hundred percent committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m a hundred percent certain that’s gonna happen.”
The union side, for its part, expressed a desire to play this past weekend. “Tell us when and where,” executive director Tony Clark said.
However, the league sent the union a letter Monday saying there won’t be a season unless the players waive any legal claims against MLB stemming from the sides’ March agreement, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Additionally, Manfred went after the union for the letter it sent to the league Friday.
“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,” Manfred said. “Obviously, that sort of bad-faith tactic makes it extremely difficult to move forward in these circumstances.”
As part of the agreement that the league and the union made back, Manfred has the ability to implement as long of a season as he wants (maybe one as few as 40-some games). However, the union could file a grievance against the league for acting in bad faith and not making a legitimate effort to play as many games as possible. Furthermore, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post relays, Manfred could simply opt against starting a season because of a few conditions baked into the two sides’ agreement. As Sherman writes, “1. There are no governmental restrictions on spectators attending games. 2. There are no relevant travel restrictions in the United States and Canada. 3. That after consultation with recognized medical experts and the union that there are no unreasonable risks to players, staff and spectators to stage games in the 30 home parks.”
Therefore, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Manfred doesn’t have to force any kind of season. However, Manfred did admit to ESPN that it would be “a disaster for our game” for no 2020 campaign to take place.