This Week in No Baseball: Rob Manfred finds ‘unequivocal’ negotiable. What else?

Guaranteed Rate Field (Jim Margalus / Sox Machine)

Major League Baseball presented the Major League Baseball Players’ Association four different proposals that all ended up paying them for 50something games of work. Rob Manfred has the power to implement a 50something-game schedule without the union’s input. Manfred told ESPN that there will be a season this year, using terms such as “100 percent” and “unequivocally.”

So the MLBPA told him to go ahead and implement that 50something-game schedule.

It’s not quite calling his bluff, or telling him to put up or shut up. He got exposed along those lines, but he’s not showing his hand. Also, he’s not shutting up. I’m more picturing a guy frantically stacking unimposing items in front of a door in vain hopes of barring entry. Maybe it was after a bad poker game.

Suddenly, Manfred reversed his stance on the season, telling ESPN he was “not confident” a season could occur. It’s easy to think that when one of the conditions for starting a season is making the union waive its right to file a grievance against the conditions. Also, the league threw out some anonymous COVID-19 cases that could gum up the works.

Granted, the coronavirus remains a huge concern, one I thought the union failed to take seriously with its initial proposal of a 114-game season that went into November. Dr. Anthony Fauci just said baseball should avoid playing into October. Then again, the league’s initial offer attempted to pit members of the union against each other, so perhaps the players were staking out an equally ludicrous position.

A 50something game season may indeed be the best way to go from a public health perspective, as unsatisfying as that may be. Leading with public health would be a valid course, especially since the NBA is about to embark on its Orlando plan just as Orlando is dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases. But nobody is leading with public health, and it doesn’t boost confidence that MLB only raises the question when it needs a few weeks to stall.

(It needs a few weeks because if Major League Baseball implemented the 50-game season now, the union could file a grievance saying the league didn’t attempt to negotiate a better offer, and owners are afraid of losing a billion or so in a settlement.)

Manfred looks clueless, especially in the face of an MLBPA that has a simple, straightforward message to fans (“Tell us when and where.”) Granted, commissioners often look clueless when economic conditions fracture owners. Reporters have heard that some owners — the number has ranged to six, eight or more — would rather not play a season at all, as if playing baseball is harmful to a baseball team’s business model.

Manfred just hadn’t engendered much goodwill beforehand, from absolving Astros ownership in the cheating scandal to calling the trophy for the World Series winner “a piece of metal.” That Manfred openly called the situation he’s overseen “just a disaster for our game” suggests the job is too big for him, and it’ll especially look that way if the league and union decide on a middle-ground scenario that could have been hammered out with straightforward willingness to exchange concessions, rather than a nonstop series of lame offers that only looked palatable because the league had leaked worse.

Reporters like Jeff Passan and Bob Nightengale are still confident a season will occur, one that’s bigger than the bare minimum. Both took cues from Manfred using the clause “once we got to common ground on the idea that we were going to pay the players full prorated salary,” which suggests a willingness to budge that wasn’t reflected by any of the league’s proposals.

Nightengale goes so far as to say:

There will be a season. It will start between July 20 to July 27, lasting at least 65 games, with a zany postseason that gives everyone a shot for a World Series title in a season that will be forever remembered, COVID-19 be damned.

I guarantee it.

But it didn’t have to be this bad, and if it’s indeed because 20 percent of the league’s owners find staging the games financially inadvisable, it’d sure be nice to know who they are.

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HallofFrank

It seems the players have been, generally speaking, winning the PR war (and rightly so), but one area where they could come out of this with a black eye is if they hold up a 55-65 game season with a grievance threat. I certainly don’t think the players should waive their right to grievance *in total,* but the optics, at least, aren’t great when you say “tell us when and where” and, when the league tries to tell you when and where, you file a grievance—or otherwise threaten one.

Still, the league has absolutely bungled this and it’s, frankly, ridiculous how short-sighted Manfred and the owners are being.

texag10

If the league is so concerned about a grievance, then just cancel the season outright. Act of god or whatever. Then they don’t have to pay a dime and the CBA negotiations will get even more contentious. The owners have lost most, if not all, of what goodwill they had going into the season that it’s ludicrous to me they think this battle is worth fighting? Oh, you’re concerned about not having fans in the stands for games this year? The longer you drag this on and the more of them that go on record bitching about how little money they have and how unfair this all is, the more fans won’t show up once we get back to some semblance of normalcy. And that normalcy is probably further off than we would like because as soon as we get clear of COVID, the CBA will impact another season because that appears to be a bloody affair.

HallofFrank

Agreed, but the league has said it would green-light a season if the players agree not to file a grievance. Of course, who knows what the actual details are, but if it turns out the league wanted to go forward with a 55-65 game season and the players threatened to file a grievance over it, it’s going to make their “tell us when and where” a lot more hollow (rightly or wrongly). Again, I’m definitely with the players on this one, but that detail sticks out as something that could turn public perception.

Eloytes

Money is the root of all evil.

As Cirensica

What I find sad in all this is that the fans are placed as an after thought here. In order of importance, I place 1) Fans, then 2) players, and then 3) owners. Thus far, it has been addressed in the wrong order.

asinwreck

I’m more picturing a guy frantically stacking unimposing items in front of a door in vain hopes of barring entry. Maybe it was after a bad poker game.

I’m not sure what the monthly amount should be, but I support a Patreon level that commissions Carl Skanberg to animate some of Jim’s more artful imagery.

ThisReallySox

I laughed pretty hard at that line because I immediately had a visual of Manfred putting empty amazon boxes and paperback books in front of the door. Jim is the best. And yes a cartoon of that would be delightful.

Greg Nix

Great day to buy a t-shirt! https://shop.spreadshirt.com/southpaw-shirts/rob+manfred+sucks?idea=5ee8f740f93764589d8102a4comment image

(I’m donating 50% of proceeds to faireconomy.org)

GrinnellSteve

When there was talk of contracting 2 teams, Minneapolis Review of Baseball (I think) sold a shirt that said “Contract Bud. And do something about that hair.” I wore it proudly for years.

asinwreck

I would love to see a couple thousand of those “Communism” shirts on the streets of St. Louis! Nice work.

Edit: This link: https://shop.spreadshirt.com/southpaw-shirts/communism+|+cardinals?idea=5ee8f5c0f93764589d77391e

soxfan

Been watching Ken Burns’ baseball documentary and thinking, “meh, the league has been through this sort of thing before.” Not sure I can maintain that position much longer, but it is worth remembering that labor strife (or at least the threat of it) may be closer to the norm than the exception.

As Cirensica

It seems an agreement is in place…I am so excited if we will actually have baseball. Let there be baseball. I hope it works out. We need baseball so bad.

As Cirensica

The MLB playoffs would expand from 10 teams to 16 teams under the new proposal.

WOW… that’s a lot of qualifying teams. Half of it. But I will take…as long as we play baseball and the Sox are among those 16 teams, I will take it

evenyoudorn

If we wash out of the round of 16 I think we can all agree Hahn’s playoff drought does not qualify as having ended. Sorry for the immediate bummer take, but it’s the first place my mind went.

lil jimmy

first thing in my mind, Rodon, Dunning, and Kopech should all be a go. Eight Starters. Four man rotation, three innings each. Pair your three Lefties with three Righies.
How many teams can do that?

HouseOfTheRisingSox

I’d like Giolitto to go a little deeper than 3, but could definitely see your idea for some of the others spots

phillyd

You mean the first place your mind went was the Sox qualifying for the round of 16? Dude, you are such an optimist.

evenyoudorn

Top half of the league? That I can believe.

And if you read Stark’s thing on Athletic, it sounds like salary dump pickups will be there for the choosing if we need to add and if “the money will be spent.”

phillyd

I was just being a jerk. I like the Sox roster although I am still not counting on much from Rodon 13 months off of TJ. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by him.

jorgefabregas

Other reporters and the MLBPA have said this is inaccurate. It still has the provision to waive the right to file a grievance, which I assume is a non-starter.