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2020 MLB season looking less likely after latest developments in negotiations

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Yesterday’s developments come just five days after Rob Manfred spoke with 100% confidence about a 2020 season taking place.

2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

For those eager for a momentary escape from a relentless year with a little bit of Mets baseball, you may want to avert your eyes from the ongoing negotiations to start the 2020 MLB season.

After Saturday’s developments, in which the MLBPA rejected the latest proposal from the league and released a statement telling the commissioner the players are ready to get back to work and to set a schedule, Rob Manfred now says he is “not confident” that there will be a 2020 season, adding that, “I can’t tell you I’m 100% certain that’s going to happen,” The latter is especially noteworthy, as it comes five days after Manfred exclaimed that, “We will play Major League Baseball this year” and saying he is 100% sure of that while speaking at the 2020 MLB Draft.

Manfred backtracking from his Wednesday remarks was met with swift and unified derision from the Player’s Association. In a statement released mere hours after the latest quotes from the commissioner, the Association said that, “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans 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.” Following the statement, several players took to Twitter to share their thoughts in forms ranging from long Twitter threads to single gif reactions. Several Mets joined in, including Pete Alonso, Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo, and Wilson Ramos. The main message across the board is that the players are universally ready to return to action, and awaiting the commissioner’s word.

According to the original agreement reached on March 26, the MLB Commissioner has the right to unilaterally set a schedule, as long as the players are paid full pro rata, even if the two sides fail to reach an agreement as to the parameters. As a result, a 2020 season has always seemed more a matter of “when” and not “if”, which makes Manfred’s latest quote a shocking reversal. The “full pro rata” portion has been a sticking point, with owners looking to renegotiate and have players take additional pay cuts in addition to the ones agreed upon back in March.

In their offers so far, owners’ proposals have included an 82-game schedule with a sliding pay scale that affects the top earners more and a 72-game schedule where players are guaranteed at least 70% pro rata and as much as 83% if the postseason is completed. Players have consistently countered with offers that included more games (114 and 89) and full pro rata for the players, which has been met with ire from the owners. The owners have contended that, due to the loss of revenue resulting from no fans being allowed at ballparks, they cannot pay the full amount, and they believe the March agreement made it clear that 100% pro rata only applied if gate profits were to be factored in. Should the Commissioner set a 2020 schedule without an agreement, it would likely be in the 48-54 game range, with Jon Heyman stating that the number would likely start with a five.

A lot of the turmoil stems from the fact that the Player’s Association is expected to file a grievance immediately after a schedule is set, contesting that the league is not negotiating in good faith and costing them money by delaying the start of the season in order for owners to pay for fewer games. As a result, a letter from the MLB to the MLBPA also seems to indicate that there would be no season unless the union waived its right to file any legal claim against the league, according to Bill Shaikin.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, fans were served a reminder yesterday that we are still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. A letter obtained by USA Today revealed that several MLB players and coaches have tested positive for COVID-19, although it is not clear when they become affected or how many were infected. All of this comes amid spiking numbers in several states, which calls into question whether it is safe for sports to return in 2020. The two sides have yet to finalize the health protocols and special rules that would come with starting any MLB season amid the ongoing pandemic.