During the first day of the 2020 MLB Draft on June 10, commissioner Rob Manfred made a bold statement, claiming that baseball was “100 percent” returning this year.
No one really believed the certainty of that statement, but it did suggest that, at the very least, he was prepared to institute a shortened season with full prorated pay for the players.
But no more. On Monday, Manfred reversed course, admitting to the growing possibility of a 2020 without baseball. Manfred told ESPN that, “I’m not confident. I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is gonna continue.”
Manfred admitted that losing the 2020 season would be horrendous for the sport and the league, with a statement that reads eerily similar to the “I’m sorry if you’re offended” school of apologies.
Rob Manfred to @Espngreeny: "It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it. It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans."— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 15, 2020
The interview between Manfred and ESPN host Mike Greenberg was conducted earlier on Monday and will be part of the SportsCenter Special: The Return of Sports airing at 6 p.m. PT tonight.
On the surface, it would appear that the owners and the commissioner (who works for the owners) want to bully the players, who have the audacity to ask for a day’s worth of wages for each day’s worth of work. On the surface, it would seem that the billionaire owners are playing chicken with the millionaire and thousandaire players, daring them to hold their line in the sand for fair labor.
But when you dig deeper it becomes apparent that ... yeah, that’s exactly what is happening.
Manfred told ESPN that, “The owners are 100 percent committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100 percent certain that’s gonna happen.”
Let me offer up a logically synonymous statement: I am 100 percent committed to not punching you in the face. Unfortunately, I can’t tell that I’m 100 percent certain that I won’t punch you in the face.
Let’s be clear: If the owners truly wanted baseball to return — something that is unquestionably in their best long-term interest, even if there’s a short-term cost — they could easily make it happen, by agreeing to pay their laborers for the labor given. And if the commissioner wanted baseball to return, he could easily due it be instituting the previously-agreed on shortened season with full prorated pay.
Instead, the league is resorting to scare tactics to try and save a few dollars.
Translation: We won't play unless you waive a potential grievance.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) June 15, 2020
BREAKING: AP Source: MLB tells union it won't start season unless players waive claims that MLB violated March agreement.— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) June 15, 2020
That is really bad! Really, really bad, and exceedingly shameful from a league that is proving to have little shame.
In summation: MLB’s owners and commissioners could make baseball happen, but they’d much rather brag about how much money they can afford to lose in the name of holding power, while taking “America’s pastime” away from the players and the fans.
There are much bigger issues in the world right now than baseball. But if you love this sport — despite the fact that those in charge clearly don’t — you should be livid.
I sure as hell am.
Oh, and just for good measure, those billionaires would like to make sure that teams don’t help out the lowest-level employees too much:
These guys will charge you $18 for a beer and then fight to make sure a 21-year-old can't get a little extra money if he wants to go back to school one day. This is all so incredibly dumb. https://t.co/zcsfruJ9gM— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) June 15, 2020
Update: The players, who have been clear that they’ll show up for a commissioner-imposed short season, have released a statement.