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Rob Manfred on a 2020 MLB season: ‘I can’t tell you that I’m 100% certain that’s gonna happen’

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An embarrassing day for baseball

MLB: World Series-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball, as an entity, is a spectacular failure. It’s an absolute embarrassment how the league and its owners continue to step on the rake, over and over and over again.

In an interview on ESPN’s Mike Greenberg that will air Monday night in a SportsCenter special The Return of Sports, Manfred casted doubt that there would be a major league season in 2020.

From Jeff Passan at ESPN:

“I’m not confident. I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is gonna continue,” Manfred said when asked if he was confident there would be a season.

...

“The owners are a hundred percent committed to getting baseball back on the field,” Manfred said. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m a hundred percent certain that’s gonna happen.”

Manfred’s latest comments come five days after he was supremely confident there would be a season, whether or not the owners and players could come to an accord.

“We’re going to play baseball in 2020, 100 percent,” Manfred said on MLB Network Wednesday. “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.”

I thought at first Manfred didn’t like “100 percent” in any form, given how all the owners’ proposals to the players refused to pay the players all of their pro-rated salary. But this rift gets even deeper. More from Passan (emphasis mine):

“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 26th,” 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.”

But it gets even worse!

Best I can tell, from Manfred’s own comments, he won’t even implement the shortened season the owners wanted all along because a grievance is coming. It’s almost as if the owners’ bargaining hasn’t been in good faith, and they know they will lose.

MLB owners have made billions in profits for years and franchise values keep going up. The league has new television deals coming in 2022 that are even larger than the current contracts. The one years their profits aren’t guaranteed, they want to close up shop.

The players union on Saturday said, “It’s time to get back to work. Tell us when and where.”

Two days later, the owners want to shut things down. Jon Heyman over the weekend tweeted, “There are a couple owners who are fine with calling off the season, and maybe the latest from players today will spur 1 or 2 more to feel that way, but it would take 8 owners to scuttle a season.”

Those owners should sell their baseball team, never come back, and go find a French soccer team to compete with Frank McCourt.

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark in a statement Monday afternoon said, “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 the players and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign.”

This is a shameful day for Major League Baseball.