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Rob Manfred reportedly ‘not confident’ there will be a 2020 MLB season

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Pump the brakes on a potential 2020 season.

MLB: Baseball Hall of Fame-Induction Ceremony Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on Monday afternoon that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is “not confident” there will be a 2020 season. These comments come two days after the MLBPA soundly rejected the latest offer from the owners. The players made it clear that they would not be countering this offer and demanded that the owners notify them of any unilaterally enforced plans for a season by the end of business hours on Monday. The two sides have exchanged scorching letters throughout this latest very public and nasty labor battle over the economics of a 2020 season.

This also comes less than a week after Manfred said “unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year” and set the likelihood of a season being played this year at “100%”. Aside from being a very embarrassing look for Manfred, the absence of a 2020 season happening due to a monetary dispute between the owners and players would be disastrous for the sport heading into a CBA negotiation year with strong potential for a strike. With relations between the two sides as fractured as they so clearly are, not playing a 2020 season would only make things worse with all-out labor war on the horizon.

As per the hotly contested March agreement between the two sides, the owners have the right to unilaterally declare a shortened season at prorated salaries. Up until now it has been widely assumed that in the likely event that the two sides could not negotiate an alternative solution in good faith, the owners would declare a season somewhere in the range of 50 games.

While most assumed that the biggest disagreement between the two sides centered on the economics, apparently there are still some sizable issues that need to be worked out on the health side of things. The L.A. Times’ Bill Shaikin reports that MLB told the MLBPA there would be no 2020 season unless the players agreed to waive any legal claims against the league.

This basically translates to say that the players must waive any potential grievance against the owners that they would have filed for a shortened season. It was a near certainty that the players would have filed a grievance against the owners, and many players thought that this grievance would at the very least force some useful information out into the open, particularly regarding the finances of ownership, which the owners have held close to their chest to this point. This puts the players between a rock and a hard place of either forgoing a season, and pay beyond the small guarantee from the March agreement, or waiving a grievance that they see as potentially very fruitful.

Ultimately the owners are holding the sport and the fans hostage to protect themselves from a legal claim. This seems to be somewhat of an admission of guilt in that the owners are clearly concerned about any potential grievance from the players regarding how the owners have handled this negotiation and the potential for unilaterally declaring a shortened 2020 season.