Do you remember the 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft? It was so long ago, all the way back to Wednesday. Back then, this is what the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Ron Manfred, had to say.
Now, if you are like me and you don’t always watch videos, let me give you it in print. The Commissioner, the one with the final power to set the schedule per the March Agreement, said that he was 100% sure that there would be baseball in 2020. In fact, his direct quote was: “I can tell you, unequivocally, that we will play baseball this season.”
After the draft, the owners again threw another proposal at the players that basically repackaged what they’d already offered two other times. Tired of the rigmarole, the players basically said, “We’re done. You’ve got the right to set the schedule, set it. Tell us where to be and when to be there. Let’s play.”
So, with all roadblocks out of the way to a season, the owners got together yesterday to determine their next move. And after that, this is what we get from the commissioner:
BREAKING: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred tells @Espngreeny that he’s “not confident” there will be a 2020 baseball season. “Unfortunately,” Manfred said, “I can’t tell you that I’m a 100% certain that’s gonna happen.”
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 15, 2020
Somehow, between Wednesday and Monday, the chance of baseball actually decreased even though there was a white flag run up by the players. Which probably should tell you all you need to know about how the owners are approaching this whole situation.
We talked about this some in the earlier post, but the players doing a negotiating equivalent of a football team letting the opponent score so they can’t run out the clock threw a wrench in the works. Baseball could either start the season in four weeks, thus either making a 50 game season end around Labor Day and starting the playoffs very early, or they could set a date for more like August and have everyone state that, if baseball is seemingly in such a rush to get back, why are they waiting three or four weeks to get back to spring training? Or, of course, the owners could run a season from July 15-September 27, but that would require paying the players pro-rata for what would be more like 70 games (unless there was a LOT of days off in that span). You may not care for Trever Bauer, but he lines it out like this in this Twitter thread.
Now, there still needs to be agreements to be made on health and safety issues, issues that took on a little more weight (not that they were ever frivolous) when a number of Dallas Cowboys tested positive for the virus. With it hitting sports, even with precautions, it could easily be where the two sides worked on those final details for a few weeks, then opened up their spring training camps. I would have expected that, but not the commissioner being so blatant about backtracking without that being a major reason.
For some reason, the MLBPA’s “unwillingness to negotiate” (which is a bit rich coming from the side that never did anything new and drug their feet doing that) has now got the commissioner just unable to use that March Agreement hammer that he was given and that the players have asked him to use.
And what’s that reason?
Source: In a letter today, MLB told the MLBPA there would be no 2020 season unless the players waived any legal claims against the league.
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) June 15, 2020
If that’s what is needed for a 2020 season, it isn’t going to happen. The players are frustrated, they don’t feel like the agreements are being upheld, and they believe they have a strong case for a grievance against the league. Part of the reason they laid down arms, so to speak, was because they were planning this grievance and felt like they could go that route while returning to the field.
As always, our man Jack Flaherty has his gif game ON POINT.
— Jack Flaherty (@Jack9Flaherty) June 15, 2020
Of course, this also means the owners feel like there’s a real strong chance they would lose said grievance. It’s not the legal fees they are worried about, it’s the millions of dollars they’d have to pay out to the players when the decision didn’t go their way. (OK, maybe they are just worried about what an arbitrator/judge would do, but I have to think if they were very confident in their case, that wouldn’t deter them.)
With some players coming out on Twitter saying that ends the season, it really feels like we were about to take the final step off the rickety bridge spanning a huge chasm, only to have it all fall apart and send the fans and the sport into the abyss. Whether it can ever climb out–and how many fans will even try–remains to be seen.