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Commissioner says there will ‘100%’ be baseball this year — but when?

Rob Manfred says we’ll see baseball in some form this year, but the league is still fighting over how many games

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

We will have baseball in 2020.

Commissioner Rob Manfred made that clear last night in separate interviews on ESPN and the league’s own television network.

The interviews were another opportunity for the league and its billionaire owners, some of whom lamented that this baseball thing isn’t as profitable (perhaps hoping we’d skim right over the as part of that, as Max Scherzer pointed out later in the night) as we’d think, to get their messaging out again and try to reassure fans that have largely grown frustrated with both sides.

The players, for their part, seem to be the ones wanted to play more games. Their latest proposal — 89 games for a regular season, plus the expanded playoff field the owners desparately want (because the pay for that doesn’t come out of their pockets) not just this year, but also next year, as long as they get their previously-agreed-upon prorated pay — was almost immediately rejected.

Manfred says the league will have another proposal for the players soon, but the common theme from that side has been fewer games and equivalent paycuts — with the players still ending up with 30-35% of what both sides had agreed to in March, even if the league tries to spin the numbers a different way.

The players have not come off their stance that the pay issue was already settled in March, and there are evidently very good legal reasons for them not to budge on that aspect.

From the players’ perspective, they’ve already agreed to the pay structure. It’s now up to the league to tell the players how many games they can play. Per the previous agreement, the commissioner’s office has the power to mandate the number of games, and Manfred’s statement last night essentially boils down to that — basically saying, “if you can’t agree, I’ll make sure there’s something.”

One would hope he would recognize that more games would give the league some good PR — especially with other leagues like the NBA scheduled to restart at the end of July, and if baseball can safely start up first, it would earn itself at least a couple weeks of sole attention from a country craving to watch something, anything live (if you don’t believe that, look at the attention Peyton Manning and Tom Brady playing golf got the other week).

But it’s important to remember how Manfred got the job in the first place — gaining support of the owners. He ultimately works for them, and in the end, his order on the number of regular season games played — potentially as low as 48, a laughably small sample considering last year’s World Series champion was one of the league’s worst teams at 19-31 through 50 games — won’t be any more than what the owners say they can stomach.

If new Brewer Brett Anderson is any indication, the players aren’t expecting much from the commissioner at this point.

Stay tuned.