Less than a week ago Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said that there would unequivocally going to be a season in 2020, with the likelihood being at 100%. Today he had a very different opinion on things, telling Mike Greenberg of 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,” said Manfred when asked if he was confident there would be a season.

Welp.

After a whole lot of back-and-forth in negotiations, where the owners and Major League Baseball offered nearly an identical salary to the players, just said in different manners four different times, the players told them we’re done negotiating – just tell us the length of the season, and when and where to show up and let’s play. The MLBPA gave MLB until tonight to respond. Apparently that didn’t go so well.

Everyone’s favorite social media personality in the baseball sphere (that isn’t a player), Jomboy put it best:

And it turns out he nailed it, too. Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Major League Baseball told the MLBPA that there would be no season in 2020 unless the players waived any legal claims against the league.

JJ Cooper of Baseball America expanded on that potential grievance:

The owners had their bluff called and now they don’t know what to do. The players said mandate the season as per our agreement in March and we’ll show up to play. Ownership then had no answer to the request. They never had any intention of making this happen. The hope was that it would get the players to break the previous agreement, and when it didn’t, they then tried to say “we’ll only play if you don’t sue us for breaking this contract” knowing that it very much won’t work that way.

From ESPN and Jeff Passan, this quote from Rob Manfred is painful to read:

The owners are a hundred percent committed to getting baseball back on the field.

Is that so, Rob? Because if they were, there’d be spring training 2.0 happening right now and we’d be about two weeks away from starting the season. Instead we’ve got you sitting here today telling the world you aren’t confident baseball is going to happen this year because the owners don’t want to honor the contract that they signed in March.

I’m starting to think that Rob Manfred doesn’t understand what 100% is.

50 Responses

  1. Melvin

    Pretty much unbelievable what the owners are trying to do. My opinion of Manfred is going way down….way down.

    • Eddie

      Isn’t some of this his job? I thought he worked for the owners.

  2. Old-school

    This is just another stall tactic. Manufacture another issue to burn another week of sand going through the hour glass to make it impossible to now play 70 games. This has been the owners strategy from the get-go. Once it gets down to a report date of July 5 with 55 games , Manfred will summon a season around June 25.

    • Klugo

      Yes, if they can waste enough time, then they could win a grievance. Like, maybe. They gotta waste like two weeks though.
      My question is this though, doesn’t the Commish’s right to set a schedule work both ways? Can’t he come out tomorrow and say, look we’re going to play a 65 game schedule and the owners would have to do it?

      • Hotto4Votto

        He could if he were anything more than the owners mouthpiece.

    • Old-school

      Considering the uncertainty of 2021, that’s a good question. Until MLB owners get assurance fans will be in the stands in 2021at full capacity, players without contracts in 2021 will get crushed this off-season, including arbitration non-tenders that would never be non- tendered in ordinary times. The free agent market will be an Arctic freeze.

    • Old-school

      Trevor Bauer just obliterated Manfred and called it a bluff.

      I like that guy.

    • Doug Gray

      The basis is this: MLB threatened on more than one occasion that they had the power to implement a season at prorated pay at the length that they wanted. So MLBPA said cool, do it. And now MLB is like “well hold on one second here, maybe we can’t have a season”.

      I don’t know how to explain it any simpler than that. MLB had their bluff called and they have no answer other than to try and stall so they don’t get sued for a billion dollars, knowing full well that they will lose and this stalling tactic is the only thing they’ve got left in their bag.

    • RojoBenjy

      Sliotar wrote, “ owners would crush the players in the court of public opinion.”

      I think it’s the polar opposite. Billionaires crying looks much worse than millionaires crying, especially if the billionaires signed the millionaires to work contracts and then want to cry poor and reneg on said contracts.

    • greenmtred

      The court of public opinion is hard to read. You may well be right, since the public will often gobble up spin and ask for seconds, but my concern is how public opinion will judge baseball after this year, assuming that there is no season. It seems possible to me that one outcome would be that the game would survive as a marginal sport–very marginal. Somewhere between MLS and televised skateboarding.

  3. Hotto4Votto

    Manfred….worse or better than Selig? I’m not sure. Both are awful for baseball.

    • Doug Gray

      Worse for baseball, but until the last 48 hours, better for the owners.

    • Colorado Red

      Thank God, Bowie was the worst comish in History.
      Messed up baseball forever.
      With the DH, the abomination from the Abiss.

  4. Justin

    Why are we getting all upset overt Manfred? I mean he is a talking head for the owners. The attention needs to be on the owners and not lost by their puppet Manfred. But yes Manfred is a clown as well.

    • Old-school

      That’s a great question but how much are the owners unified? Does Bob Castellini want to shut down the season like the Pirates or Orioles or Marlins or Tigers or Royals do?

      What is the 2021 draft order if no baseball is played? If you are the Colorado Rockies and have horrific contracts and play in the same division as the Dodgers…why play.

      This is bad owners who have no chance to win tanking again at a different level on steroids.
      Castellini needs to step up.

      • jim walker

        I’ve thought all along that the owners were all over the map. Every iteration makes me feel so more strongly.

        I’m now close to thinking also thinking that just like our society in general, they are extremely polarized to the point some would rather see the ship sink than make it to port safely by any route other than their own preferred choice.

      • TR

        It is time for Big Bob to step away from the crowd and tell us Reds fans how he really feels about this unending saga. Leadership is needed.

      • Old-school

        Thanks Doug. Rob Manfred has clearly chosen lawyering over leadership. He also won’t be able to effectively function in front of fans going forward. Perhaps the owners know this and will give him a golden parachute after he does the heavy lifting of lawyering over the next 18 months.

        That said, Bob Castellini is the Reds owner and he needs to lead. Cincinnati is one of 30 MLB franchises in the world. Reds fans have endured a 7 year rebuild that was initially mismanaged and will go down as the worst era in Reds baseball since the Great Depression. The Reds finally have a chance to win. Making a mockery of the season with 48 games or not playing because of money is unacceptable.

        It’s time for leadership from Mr. Castellini. Step in and lead. You owe it to Reds fans. Play 70+ games and give this roster a shot and the fans hope.

        Otherwise, your legacy will be forever linked to Rob Manfred in 2020, who failed baseball in a time of true human and societal crisis.

  5. TR

    If MLB said today roughly 70 games, July 15 start date, full prorated salary, DH and expanded playoffs, then would players accept without grievance? I say yes, but that won’t happen. The terms in March agreement for travel and fans in stadiums means owners can just cancel which is their negotiating tactic now. Should players make a little less due to no fans. Yes, but the owners deserve the majority of blame in this. They can pay full salary this year and cry poor in subsequent years and recoup the money by not paying for free agents. They are experts in now with colluding without being punished.

    • Doug Gray

      Yes, they would accept it because it would be within the terms they agreed to 3 months ago. The no fans thing only works if the owners can show it’s not financially feasible to not pay them prorated salary. MLB tried to say that, so MLBPA asked for TV contract information for both local and national deals, and the MLB brass failed to produce all that was requested.

      • TR

        What about the no travel restrictions between US and Canada? As of right now there are still restrictions, so didn’t that need to be cleared per March agreement. I get things were done on fly in March, but there should be a class someday on how not to do a labor agreement. Do you think owners rushed it because they were worried they would have to pay full season salaries with potential of 0 games?

      • Doug Gray

        Sliotar, you do understand the difference between what the owners can offer (which is literally anything – including playing games on Mars and trying to pay the players in Schrute Bucks and Stanley nickels), and what the owners are actually going to do, right?

      • Rich H.

        Doug also left out the option where Manfred decides to diversify from baseball and focus mainly on turning out barbershop quartets, attempting to mandate that each team must submit at least 4 quartets from their 25-man rosters for an end of year “Manfred’s Little Barbershop” competition. The name was chosen so it wouldn’t conflict with the branding. It would be hosted not over Zoom but on live TV at Great Clips locations across the country, following a 7 billion dollar commitment by the haircut titan to build and maintain hundreds of “Sing Training” facilities across the US and Latin America, all equipped with PITCHf/x™ technology, slightly modified from it’s original design and use. The event will be kicked off with a stunning rendition of “Coney Island Wahsboard Roundelay” by Sweet Lou Piniella and The Nasty Boys, who have stayed connected through their shared passion after all these years. The winners of the competition will have an album recorded and distributed globally by TrackMan’s™ new state of the art entertainment division. Early projections have the Cardinals’ “Yadi-da-di-das” and the Braves “Acuna Matatas” as heavy favorites, but don’t count out the dark horse “Soto Voce’s” bringing the heat from D.C.

        That’s also technically an option, if we’re gonna get real literal with that part of what Doug wrote above.

      • Rich H.

        Dang it Doug, you beat me to the ridiculous options part!!!

  6. Jon

    If this wasn’t true, I’d think it was a joke. The commissioner and owners continue to lie and continue to back themselves into a corner that they could easily step out of immediately. They’d rather continue to cry poverty despite record MLB revenue this past decade and a massive new postseason television deal (that was announced with the worst possible timing, I might add). If owning a baseball team isn’t profitable enough for these clowns (I mean owners), why don’t they sell their shares, take their money, and retire to a city far away from any MLB team? The players have called their bluff and now that the ball is back in the owners’ hands, they refuse to make the next move that is required of them to get 2020 underway. It is clear as day that the owners are refusing to negotiate in good faith to make the season as long as reasonably possible in order to get out of paying more to the players. Just six months ago or so, the Yankees were the most hated team in baseball. Then it became the Astros. Now, the owners and Rob Manfred have taken the lead on the most-despised-in-baseball list, and it’s not even close. Realistically, could the players still file a grievance if this is another stall tactic to waste two or three weeks to keep the season around 50 games?

  7. Doug Gray

    There’s zero chance the players waive their legal rights. Full stop.

    • BK

      While I tend to agree with you Doug, didn’t the players agree to not file a grievance in the event there was no season? I believe that was one of two carrots the owners got: no grievance over the season being suspended and reduced draft costs (notice that the only financial concession was at the expense of non-union members).

  8. REDSMAN

    If there were any doubt previously, this latest statement from the owners and their puppet boy ‘Robby Manfredy’, certainly seems to crystallize the real culprits here. They are holding hostage all the remaining loyal fans, as well as the players, their families, any and all ball park employees, as well as any business’s on the periphery of the complexes that they play in and probably others I am leaving out! This whole thing is to the point of being disgusting!

    I think they are highly over estimating the remaining loyalties that still exist. It boggles the mind to think they can be so petty, so dysfunctional as to believe they aren’t about to blow the whole thing sky high! Perhaps though this may actually be for the best. If MLB goes away, maybe some of the recently bereft minor league organizations will rise from the ashes and resurrect a new baseball league!

    If so, be sure to take preventive measures against any former MLB partners in gaining franchises in the new league! Man I am sick of this! It might even be worse than the strike was!

    • Jefferson J Reed

      I like your comment, Redsman. Putting the great game of baseball at risk in regard to the fans makes no sense to me. I think the result will be more negative than the strike of 1994. If the minor leagues were back in action and I was more mobile, I would try to see a few games in Lakeland (Tigers), Clearwater (Phillies), Bradenton (Pirates) and Tampa (Yankees) just for the love of the game.

      • greenmtred

        I like Redsman’s comment, too. Baseball–as distinguished from MLB–is a great game. MLB has gone down the rabbit hole and is now just reflecting general disfunction and division. If I were interested in more of that, I’d watch the news all day.

  9. Vegas Red

    Preview on strike to follow. The union knows they cannot waive the agreement unless owners offer a markedly better financial proposal.

    Does baseball survive another strike and two lost seasons in 3 years? Your guess is as good as mine. Talk about shooting itself in the foot!

    • Colorado Red

      Yes, it will survive.
      But in what form?
      Fans in the seats, DOWN,
      Fans watching on TV DOWN
      Franchise values way DOWN,
      Salaries DOWN.
      For both sides, come up with a fair deal. 70 games, 80% of pro-rated salaries, 100% if the post season is played in full.
      Neither side has moved at all.

      • BK

        As a fan, the really tough part is that neither side seems willing to move an inch. Way too many press releases. The contrast with other sports couldn’t be more stark. The very fact that they have both chosen to air so much dirty laundry will have consequences. Both sides couldn’t have picked a worse time to play hardball with each other. Poor leadership.

  10. sixpack

    Our national reaction to a Virus (4 million cases with a 330 million population) has cause a catch 22 without a good solution. Parks without Fans, lose income from parking, tickets and food. Income from TV contracts. Current contracts with players, who are not playing. If I’m a business owner I try to do what is best for the situation, as if your business goes away so do you. But if I try to open without assurances of legal ramifications, then my business could go away anyhow from bankruptcy, as where is my income coming from? I hope we have baseball in July and on.

  11. CFD3000

    IMHO the players are culpable in some ways, and Tony Clarke probably needs to hand over the reigns at MLBPA way before the next CBA is negotiated. But the Owners bear primary responsibility for this ridiculous situation. And the irony is they are minimizing short term losses (or possibly just reduced profits) at the long term expense of future revenue and lower franchise values. They should have said yes, this may cost us a lot this year, but in the long run it’s better for our bottom lines, for long term revenue, and franchise value to play as many games as health considerations permit AND it’s the right thing to do for baseball, for the fans, and for the nation. Opportunity: missed. Completely.

    On a related note, I agree with those begging for leadership. Mr. Castellini – where have you been? I know you’re a baseball fan from personal direct experience. We’d love to hear from you.

  12. Big Ed

    The principal reason that there is not yet an agreement — which both sides desperately need — is that there is no actual, firm deadline to reach one. A deadline, however, is now developing.

    As a practical matter, baseball couldn’t really have re-started “spring training” until about now, if that. There are still many COVID issues, and the proof of the pudding is that the other leagues aren’t starting, either. Business air travel in general is nigh verboten; the U.S. Department of Justice has banned almost all travel for its staff; etc.

    Given that it will take about 28 days from the opening of training until Opening Day, and that even a 52-game schedule must be started by Friday, July 31, then the operative final deadline for playing the season is to start training about July 3, which in itself will require maybe a week’s lead time. That creates an effective deadline of about June 26, after which the only option is a 48-game schedule imposed by MLB.

    I agree with Doug and others that MLB doesn’t want to impose a minimum schedule, because it is worried about a grievance. The whole issue for the next week or so, then, is figuring out how many games MLB has to offer, to allow it to offer a valid defense to a grievance. MLB can reasonably say that the earliest it could possibly have started, given COVID concerns, would have been Friday, July 17, which would leave time for a 66-game schedule.

    So, within a week or so, they are going to agree to play a season from 54 to 60 games, beginning about July 24. Because they pretty much HAVE to agree to that.

    If you figure that the players lose $25 million per unpaid game ($4+ billion / 162 games), then the maximum grievance under this scenario for 54 games would be for 12 games (66-54), or $300,000,000, at $10 million a team.

    With a 60-game season, the players might well lose the grievance. And MLB could kill a grievance altogether, with an offer to play 60 games at 90% pay, another round of playoffs, and 100% pay if the playoffs are finished, which is pretty close to what it would eventually impose, anyway.

    Both Manfred and Clark are public relations morons, which doesn’t help.

  13. RojoBenjy

    Dear MLB,

    Your sport is hemorrhaging fans at a fatal rate, and you are dumping the life-giving blood transfusions down the sink.

  14. Tom Reeves

    I propose a 54 game season with three, 10 team divisions. Each team plays the other 9 teams in their division in one home 3-game series and one away 3-game series. They don’t play teams outside their division in the regular season to reduce travel distances.

    The 3 teams with the best records, plus one wildcard team, plays 2 rounds of playoffs. The second round is the WS.

    This gives baseball the best chance of playing a season and crowning a champion before the fall wave of COVID 19 cases.

    (Btw, that will be the owners trump card in the arbitration. It’s not just when the season starts that’s a constraint, it’s also when the season ends. Trying to extend games into the fall is risky and there’s no way to accurate predict that risk. The best way to fit the season in is to do it in a compressed timeframe.)

    So, under the 54 game schedule, there are games Tuesday-Sunday, with Mondays off (or for makeup games). This allows the 54 game season to be played in 9 weeks plus 2 weeks of playoffs.

    From a travel perspective, there’s no coast to coast travel, which helps a lot.

    This schedule would begin on Tuesday, July 21st the World Series would be approximately the first week of October (if the first round of play offs goes to 5 games).

    That should be before the start of flu season and hopefully a second wave of COVID 19.

    • Melvin

      This is most likely exactly what will happen.

  15. Doug Gray

    You have a real problem understanding the context of replies. The opening of the books reply was contingent upon the players playing for less than prorated salary, not them saying “we aren’t playing at all”. They aren’t taking less than that unless the owners open the books to prove they can’t make it work.

  16. ClevelandRedsFan

    There are reports now that 6-8 owners want to cancel the season. 8 is the magic number because Manfred needs at least 75% of owners to agree to the season or he can’t actually implement the shortened season unilaterally.

    My guess is that it’s a stall tactic. I haven’t been on the anti-owners bandwagon and always thought the players should negotiate a small pay cut for future benefits. But I can’t back the owners on this. They need to set the season wherever they want. If they go shorter, they don’t lose as much money but run the risk of the grievance. That’s a really easy cost-benefit analysis you’d think a billionaire could complete, or pay someone to do.

    Owners just need to act now.

    • TR

      I think in the next few days owners will end up offering somewhere between a 64-72 game season with 100% prorated salary. However, they hold 30% of prorated salary for completion of playoffs. Players could earn some more in playoff pool if playoffs expanded. Dr Fauci just warned against late October games. Would MLBPA accept this with waiving grievance?

  17. JayDubz

    You don’t need a PhD in game theory to recognize that ownership will break. They have the economic flexibility, and you’d have to be suicidal to cancel 2020 with 2021-22 on the horizon. Can you imagine the viewership and fan support that they’d be foregoing when people are watching old sports games for fun right now?

    I think that they’ll test the players to the brink, but fall back to fight another day.

  18. citizen54

    A canceled season would just highlight how dumb Dick Williams’s moves have been. So we would have given up our top prospect for a couple of months of Bauer. Mind you this trade wasn’t made when the Reds were in spot to contend. This move was made when the Reds were battling for last place.

    Williams then overpays in both years and dollars for Mike Moustakas who is on the wrong side of 30 and Nick Castellanos who had a contract where you were hoping he would be opting out in 2020 or 2021. Well now it looks like he is going to be a Red through 2023. This is a guy projected to produce 1.4 WAR in 2020.

    Then there is that distasterous trade with the Dodgers where we gave up prospects for a bunch of guys on one years deals.

    Hopefully, this will be a lesson to those who think tearing down your farm system for a one or two year run is a wise move.