Baseball union chief Tony Clark instructed Major League Baseball on Saturday to let the players know when and where to show up for work.
Well, that wait could last until next spring.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday that he’s no longer confident there will be a 2020 season on a pre-taped ESPN show Monday night with five other commissioners.
“I’m not confident,’’ Manfred said on the network’s “The Return of Sports’’ special. “I think there’s real risk, and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue. …
“The owners are a 100% committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100% certain that’s going to happen.’’
Major League Baseball’s owners huddled Monday morning on a conference call and decided they’ll take the union’s word that negotiations are over, and will now focus on reaching an agreement on the safety and health protocols with the union, along with creating a truncated schedule, according to two people with direct knowledge of the call.
The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Yet, no schedule will be created unless the union waives its right to all legal claims that MLB violated their March agreement.
The union thinks this is a stall tactic, leading to the likelihood that if there is season, it will be as few as 50 games, and no more than 60.
MLB 2020: Owners need to have their hand forced
Clark and the union responded with a statement Monday night in response to Manfred’s comments.
“Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season,’’ Clark said in the MLBPA statement.
“Any implication that the Players Association has somehow delayed progress on health and safety protocols is completely false, as Rob has recently acknowledged the parties are ‘very, very close.’
“This latest threat is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning. This has always been about extracting additional pay cuts from players and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign.”
Certainly, there will be grievances filed on both sides, but the March 26 agreement specifically allows MLB to set its own 2020 schedule, using its “best efforts to play as many games as possible, while taking into account player safety and health, rescheduling needs, competitive considerations, stadium availability and the economic feasibility of various alternatives.”
MLB argues that the March 26 agreement was “premised on the parties’ mutual understanding that the players would be paid their full salaries only if play resumed in front of fans,’’ which the union disputes.
The two sides, who have vastly different interpretations of the agreement, have no choice but to continue to talk.
“I had been hopeful that once we got to common ground on the idea that we were going to pay the players full prorated salary, that we would get some cooperation in terms of proceeding under the agreement that we negotiated with the MLBPA on March 26th,” Manfred told ESPN.
“Unfortunately, over the weekend, while Tony Clark was declaring his desire to get back to work, the union’s top lawyer was out telling reporters, players and eventually getting back to owners that as soon as we issued a schedule – as they requested – they intended to file a grievance claiming they were entitled to an additional billion dollars.
“Obviously, that sort of bad-faith tactic makes it extremely difficult to move forward in these circumstances.”
“It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it,’’ Manfred said. “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.”