June 15 (UPI) — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday that he’s “not confident” there will be a 2020 baseball season.
Manfred told ESPN that as long as discussions are halted between league owners and the MLB Players Association, “real risk is going to continue.” His recent comments were a reversal from his statement last week, when he said “unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year” and labeled the chances at “100 percent.”
“I’m not confident. I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue,” Manfred said Monday. “It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it. It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans.”
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark released a statement Monday in response to Manfred’s comments. Clark revealed that players are “disgusted” over Manfred’s threat to cancel this season after previously saying it would happen.
“Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told players and fans that there would ‘100 percent’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season,” Clark said in the statement.
“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.”
Players from around the league also took issue with Manfred’s statement. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer called Manfred’s comments a “bluff” in a series of tweets, while Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper jokingly threatened to change career paths and move to the NFL.
The odds of no season happening increased Monday when the commissioner’s office informed the players it won’t move forward with a schedule unless the union waives its right to claim owners violated a March agreement between the parties, according to ESPN and the Los Angeles Times.
In particular, MLB owners want the players to sign away their rights to a potential grievance hearing, according to the newspaper.
Under the March 26 agreement between the owners and the players, the league can impose a season of whatever length it chooses. In a previous letter from MLB to the MLBPA, the possibility of a 48-game season was referenced.
The players could play out the season while filing a grievance that owners failed to negotiate in good faith about the length of the season, therefore violating the agreement. If the players were to prevail in the hearing, owners could be liable for millions of dollars in damages.
On Saturday, the MLBPA told MLB it is done negotiating and for the league to go ahead and impose a season.
“Further dialogue with the league would be futile,” Clark said. “It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”
The league’s latest proposal to the players’ union — which was declined — included 72 games and guaranteed 70 percent of their prorated pay, with a maximum of 83 percent after the postseason is finished.
The $1.5 billion total for player salaries was the highest offered by the league, but it still fell short of the full rate players were looking for after losing money for the games missed so far due to the coronavirus pandemic.