MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN on Monday he is “not confident” there will be a 2020 baseball season. A week ago, he told ESPN “unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year,” saying the likelihood was “100%.” However, he told ESPN the risk of no season continues “as long as there’s no dialogue” with the MLB Players Association.
A week ago, Manfred discussed the owners’ rights under the March 26th agreement with the players that allows them to implement a season length of their choosing. The hold-up has been over how much pay players would receive, and Manfred said if need be, the league would implement a season of their choosing to get this going.
Now, a week later, the threats are growing from the league. The owners sent a letter to the MLBPA stating there would be no 2020 season if the players did not waive any legal claims against the league, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Shaikin.
The claims in question would include potentially filing a grievance for bad faith negotiations. The league has made multiple offers, but they have generally been around the same amount of money, just re-packaged in different ways. The owners are accusing the players of bad faith negotiations, even as the MLBPA has come down in total games and pay, and offered to defer payments in the event the playoffs get canceled.
We appear to be in an end-game situation at this point. This could prove to be a final bit of posturing to try and get enough players to force the union to move. Anything is possible in these uncertain times, but the union has appeared to hold strong thus far. By the end of this week, we might have an idea of who is willing to blink first.
UPDATE: MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark released a statement that “Players are disgusted” by Manfred’s comments and behavior.