Just days after MLB commissioner Rob Manfred declared emphatically that there was a “100 percent” chance of baseball in 2020, his tune changed considerably on Monday. As part of an ESPN special titled “The Return of Sports,” Manfred sat for an interview with Mike Greenberg and, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the tenor of that interview was far different from what transpired previously on MLB Network.
For a bit of context, Manfred left very little wiggle room in speaking on the night of the 2020 MLB Draft.
“We’re going to play baseball in 2020, 100%,” Manfred said. “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.”
With that as the backdrop, Manfred reportedly told Greenberg that he is “not confident” in the 2020 season transpiring, citing the absence of dialogue with the MLB Players Association.
“The owners are 100 percent committed to getting baseball back on the field,” Manfred told ESPN. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100 percent certain that’s gonna happen.”
According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, the commissioner’s office told the MLBPA on Monday that “games would not be scheduled unless the union waives legal claims against the league” and, “in particular, the owners want the players to sign away the right to a potential grievance hearing.”
Predictably, this overture did not go over well with Tony Clark and the MLBPA, with a firm statement issued on Monday evening.
Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark today released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/ibyOqB93WC
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 15, 2020
While an agreement could still be reached, this feels like an undeniable setback in the negotiations. In fact, Manfred even acknowledged in the ESPN interview that “it’s just a disaster for our game” to have this kind of impasse and “it shouldn’t be happening.”
In the end, however, ownership and the commissioner’s office are seemingly unwilling to yield to facilitate an agreement and, while there is time to resuscitate the situation, baseball fans have to be less confident in the potential of baseball in 2020 than they were just a few days ago.