I was all prepared to write a draft recap for this post. I was midway through research on Austin Wells, Trevor Hauver, and Beck Way when the bombshell dropped yesterday.
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.”
Less than one week after guaranteeing on national television that there will 100% be a season, Manfred walked it back. Why you ask? Since that guarantee one MLB owner said that baseball isn’t a profitable business right as MLB agreed to a future playoff tv deal worth billions of dollars. In light of that and MLB’s refusal to propose a deal with full pro-rated pay, the players walked away from the bargaining table and threatened to file a grievance – both of which they are allowed to do.
Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark today released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/d1p3Oj4K70
When play was shut down in March, the agreement was both sides would engage in good faith negotiations to play as many games as possible. If they were unable to come to a deal, Rob Manfred had the ability to make any schedule he and the owners see fit provided
1. The players receive full pro-rated pay and 2. It follows the “as many games as possible” principle.
The players believe MLB has not held up its end of the bargain and are likely to file a grievance if Manfred imposes a schedule. To which MLB retorted there will be no baseball unless the players waive their right to any grievance. This Hannah Keyser tweet sums it up nicely:
MLB is threatening to play zero games unless the MLBPA promises to not sue them for not playing as many games as they could.
Which is one way to telegraph that the league was not planning to play as many games as they could!
Craig Edwards of FanGraphs had a great post yesterday outlining the alleged marginal loss per team if more games are played this season. His conclusion? A 72 game season at full pro-rated salaries would cost each team an additional $7.6 million. That’s pocket change for these teams. Not to mention, that number doesn’t even account for national television revenue or playoff revenue. The owners are holding the players, baseball, and us the fans hostage over what amounts to 2% of team revenue per year.
It seems to come down to this: The baseball owners, who have made billions and been given sweetheart leases and absurd tax breaks and the legal freedom to run a monopoly, are unwilling to give back even a little to their communities and support the very game that they represent.
Last night, ESPN had a two hour special on the return to sports. Each of the major league sports commissioners appeared to talk about their plans to restart the season and what the future holds. It would have been a perfect time for Rob Manfred to be able to announce an agreement and explain how baseball was going to be part of the nation’s healing like it has been so many other times. Except, of course, none of that was possible. The juxtaposition of MLB with literally every other sports league was incredible. I can’t put it any better than this guy
Rob Manfred sitting next to six other commissioners, all of whom have a plan in place to return, is like when George gets a job at the Yankees and Jerry goes "Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle…Costanza?!?!"
MLB is a disaster right now. Even hockey, which seems to have a lockout every five years and invented booing your league commissioner, has a plan to restart! The WNBA, which makes far, far less money than baseball has agreed to a season that is barely 60% of its normal length. But do you want to guess how much money the players are going to make? THEIR FULL SALARIES! MLB players aren’t even asking for that – they only want pro-rated – and the MLB owners balked. There’s a reason the WNBA and its player association are receiving an ESPY on Sunday for their CBA and MLB is not.
What was so striking between Manfred’s interview in the program last night and every other interview was the topic of money. Not a single other league is tied up over money. The NHL is talking about giving a few teams byes and then completing their playoffs. The MLS and NWSL have discussed World Cup style tournaments (which is really what all leagues should be doing to drum up interest for shorter seasons). The NFL is hoping to have its normal season. Meanwhile, the NBA has a plan to resume its season with a shortened regular season, potential play-in, and then normal playoffs. What you don’t see in any of those conversations are disputes about money. Because right now, all of those leagues, players, and commissioner somehow have a better working relationship than MLB does.
NBA players’ biggest concern right now is whether or not returning to play would take away from the incredible social movement that is happening. And honestly, that’s where these conversations should be. There are so many things in the world right now that are bigger than sports, and sports should be part of the solution. Instead, MLB is making a mockery of itself.
Last night, Manfred said the owners are “100% committed to returning to baseball on the field.” It’s time to start acting like it.