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Rob Manfred no longer “100% certain” MLB will be played in 2020

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Pessimism, blame, and posturing coming out of the commissioner’s office

MLB: 2019 Spring Training Media Days Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Do you remember when the MLB commissioner had absolute confidence there would be Major League Baseball in 2020? If you remember he said, “unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year” and pegged the likelihood at “100 percent.” Well he is not so confident anymore. In a conversation with Mike Greenberg of ESPN, Manfred walked back those comments.

Manfred blamed the lack of dialogue between the league and the union for the change of certainty he had just a week ago. Since his claim of 100 percent certainty, the MLBPA rejected the latest proposal from the league. In the latest proposal the league offered a 72-game season with players receiving 70 percent of prorated salaries for the regular season and 80 percent for the postseason.

The MLB proposal obviously falls well short of what the MLBPA had proposed, which was a 89 game season with salaries prorated at 100 percent. So far the league and the union have budged little with regard to the salary question and at this point seem incapable of doing so.

On top of the issue of prorated player salaries, the league introduced a new twist. MLB does not want to face potential legal responsibility for bringing baseball back if a player get sicks or even dies from COVID-19. MLB also does not want to face player grievances regarding wages and the length of the season.

At this point players have little-to-no trust in owners claims, and they might be looking to challenge those claims. Along with protecting against litigation for potential health issues, it looks as if Manfred is attempting to keep players from filing grievances that could force MLB to open their books.

Both sides are posturing, expressing an ardent desire to get back on the field. To illustrate the leaders of each group made statements in kind. Manfred told Greenberg, “The owners are a hundred percent committed to getting baseball back on the field.”

Tony Clark recently issued a statement that explained the unions position and ended with, “Tell us when and where.”

Manfred indicated that Clark’s statement was a bad-faith tactic as he accused the union’s top lawyer that as soon as the league issued a schedule that the union intended to file a grievance suggesting players were entitled to an additional billion dollars.

The public back-and-forth between MLB and the MLBPA has players responding in kind. Be sure to read the entire thread of statements conveyed by Bauer.

What once looked like the promise of a baseball season has turned into a pessimistic cluster that seems to promise labor unrest instead. Both sides obviously feel they have leverage to play with, while the fans can only sit wait for the smoke to clear.