By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — More than a week has passed since Major League Baseball and its players’ union finally reached their official impasse, thus prompting MLB to institute a 60-game season without any of the potential changes that had been proposed to the players. As you surely recall, it was a sordid affair all around, with the owners and players seemingly hating each other while “negotiating” a deal to play during the coronavirus pandemic.
At the crux of the matter was that the players wanted their full prorated salaries and they wanted to play as many games as possible, so that they could earn as much money as possible. It was a fair request for baseball players to want to play baseball.
But MLB owners were resistant to playing many games, because they wouldn’t be making money on ticket sales.
As a result, a massive gap existed between the highest players’ proposal (114 games) and the lowest owners’ proposal (50 games).
And now, after all of that acrimony and bad publicity, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred … kind of just said that it was all a waste of time.
Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, Manfred said that no matter what, the owners were never going to agree to any season longer than 60 games.
“Look I think the most important thing to our fans is that we’re gonna make every attempt to get the game back on the field,” Manfred said. “I know some people have talked about longer seasons, [that] 60 is too short. The reality is — the reality is — we weren’t going to play more than 60 games, no matter how, um, the negotiation with the players went or any other factor.”
Manfred added: “Sixty games is the outside of the envelope, given the realities of the times.”
Manfred tried to frame that statement around the difficulties of planning and scheduling a baseball season in the midst of the global and national health crisis of COVID-19. If that were actually the case, he’d have a point.
Yet all along, from April through late June, the players and owners never even got far enough down any path of negotiation for the concerns around COVID-19 to factor in to the discussion. From the moment the owners expressed their alternative interpretation of that March agreement for fully prorated salaries, the dispute between the two sides became about one thing and one thing only: money.
As a result, “negotiations” — such as they were — dragged on and on and on, to the point where a short season of 60 games became the only possibility to fit into a certain time window. The players ultimately refused the owners’ final offer so that they could retain their right to file a grievance to claim that owners did not negotiate in good faith to play as many games as possible.
And surely, based on Manfred’s public comments this week, that grievance won’t be particularly difficult for the union to fill out.
Patrick asked the appropriate follow-up to Manfred: “But even if the players accepted everything you offered, there was no way that you would have gone to 80 games? It was still going to be 60?”
Manfred replied: “Look, it’s the calendar. I mean, we’re playing 60 games in 63 days right now. I don’t see given how the reality of the health situation over the past few weeks, how we were going to get going any faster than the calendar we’re on right now, no matter what the state of those negotiations were.”
Again, the calendar is condensed because MLB wasted weeks (or months?) making offers that were always going to be rejected by the players. Initial reports in previous months indicated the league was optimistic that teams could enter camps in June, with a start date for real games beginning this weekend around the Fourth of July. The two sides being miles apart on proration and season length prevented that from ever becoming close to a reality.
From the outside, it sure looked like a stall tactic. And with the commissioner now leaning on the lack of time to play any more than 60 games, it kind of feels like confirmation.
Manfred also used his time on the show to discuss how much money players left on the table and how they disappointed fans by turning down the expanded postseason. Clearly, the bad blood between the two sides won’t be cooling any time soon.
.@MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred explains why a 60-game schedule was the only option for the League this season.
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) July 1, 2020
“I know it hasn’t looked particularly pretty in spots, but having said that, if we can pull off this 60-game season, I think it was the best we were going to do for our fans, given the course of the virus,” Manfred said.
Fans may indeed enjoy watching some baseball this year … but comments like that from the commissioner are certain to come back around when/if the union files a grievance.