MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is casting doubt that there will be a Major League Baseball season in 2020 after players rejected the league’s latest offer.

MLB Rob Manfred season
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred now says he’s less than 100% confident that Major League Baseball will have a 2020 season.

On Monday, the commissioner’s office told the MLBPA that it won’t schedule a season unless the players waive their right to argue that the league violated the March agreement between the two sides.

Manfred, MLBPA Trade Accusations of Bad Faith

Manfred spoke to ESPN’s Mike Greenberg on Monday as part of a “Return to Sports” special in which commissioners talked about their leagues and their plans to resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m not confident,” Manfred said. “I think there’s real risk, and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue.”

Manfred says the league is committed to playing, but that the MLBPA isn’t negotiating in good faith.

“The owners are 100% committed to getting baseball back on the field,” Manfred said. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100% certain that’s gonna happen.”

The players dispute Manfred’s take on the situation, to say the least. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark responded to the commissioner’s comments with a statement.

“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 wrote. “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.”

Potential Grievance, COVID-19 Among Threats to Season

In response to MLB’s latest proposal – a 72-game season with 70% of prorated salaries, which could increase to 83% if the postseason is completed – Clark said that future negotiations appeared to be “futile.”

“It’s time to get back to work,” Clark wrote. “Tell us when or where.”

That fact that Manfred didn’t take Clark up on that offer surprised some players. The league floated the idea of a significantly shortened season – perhaps in the neighborhood of 48 games – under the March agreement, meaning players would receive their full prorated salaries.

Manfred refused to do so, however, fearing that the MLBPA would file a grievance arguing that the league didn’t make the “best efforts to play as many games as possible,” as the March agreement requires. Some players, including Trevor Bauer, have accused Manfred of playing a waiting game to shorten a season he will eventually authorize.

COVID-19 concerns may also be threatening the likelihood of the 2020 MLB season. While conditions continue to improve in the early hotspots of the Northeast, many states are seeing significant increases in cases after attempting to open their economies. If that trend continues over the next few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic could threaten not only the MLB season, but other major sports as well – especially if players have health concerns that leagues cannot adequately address.

As the potential MLB season shortens, the odds on the World Series favorites are lengthening due to the increased variance expected in a short season. William Hill now lists the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers as +400 co-favorites to win the 2020 title – up from +300 on both teams a month ago.

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