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2020 baseball season is in precarious state after latest negotiating blunder from MLB

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I want baseball. You want baseball. The players want baseball. The owners apparently don’t!

MLB: San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves
Apr 14, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred speaks prior to the first MLB game at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After Commissioner Rob Manfred guaranteed not even a week ago that there was going to be a Major League Baseball season in 2020, he’s changed course and things are looking extremely dire for baseball in 2020. He’s now claiming that he’s not-so-confident that we’re going to see baseball this year. It’s quite easy to figure out what changed between then and now. Even though the financial aspect of things was hotly debated, there would still be a significantly-shortened season if push came to shove and they had to go back to the March 26 agreement. The MLBPA also wanted to do this with the idea that they would file a grievance against the league at some point down the road. This was apparently one bridge too many for the owners to cross!

Even though I’m firmly behind the players in this thing — since average player salaries have actually declined in recent years while the owners have been reaping all of the benefits of a boom in baseball business — there was a time during this ordeal where I could at least understand the average fan being annoyed with both parties for not being able to come to an agreement. Fans are seeing other sports either re-opening or getting ready to do so while it appeared that baseball was dragging their feet, so I can definitely see the casual fan wanting to point the finger at the players and the owners for not getting the games going again. As of right now, there’s no way that anybody with common sense can be blaming the players for a lost season if it does indeed come to it.

This is a magnum opus of idiocy for Major League Baseball and its owners. For this to come after the MLBPA basically said “Yeah sure, whatever, just start the season under the March 26 agreement” after Rob Manfred guaranteed the season, this is proof to me that the owners have been negotiating in bad faith this entire time and they weren’t willing to have a season unless they got everything they wanted. Knowing that to be the case and that the MLBPA probably stood a very good chance to win any potential grievance that came MLB’s way, the owners have made a clear indication that they actually believe that it would be in their best interests to just close up shop for this season.

There’s no way to defend the owners here. They have clearly made the decision to choose greed over growing the game anymore than it has and it’s a huge shame. If there’s no season in 2020 then it’ll be the culmination of decision after decision that was fueled more for the love of money over the love of the actual game. The sad part is that the owners are doing this over money that would largely be inconsequential in the long run — especially since they just got done signing a billion-dollar agreement with Turner Sports! They would still take a financial hit in 2020 but this wouldn’t be enough to ruin any owner or team as far as their business is concerned. The MLBPA may not come off as perfect in this situation since they still left the minor leaguers to twist in the wind throughout this entire thing, but the players at least made it very easy to see that they wanted to get on the field this season. The owners can say no such thing. This was a money play for them from the word “Go,” and now they’re about to reap the consequences of their failed attempts to sow discord within the MLBPA.

The only good news that you can glean from this is that this news doesn’t mean that we’re definitely done with baseball in 2020. This is going to have to require the owners backing down from their current position, since this is clearly a loser for them and the commissioner as well. That might be a pipe dream when you look at the fact that “backing down” doesn’t appear to be in the owners’ playbook but it’s going to have to happen if we’re going to have baseball. It’s the only way forward, because going backward means that the sport will go off of a cliff if the season is lost.

If that does happen, then the egg will be on MLB’s face and the game could face a recovery effort that will be even more daunting than the one it took for them to recover from the 1994-95 Strike. The fans don’t want to see it, the players don’t want to see it, and people who cover the game for a living absolutely don’t want to see it. It would be tough to blame the pandemic for this as well. This would be a self-inflicted blow for the owners and the game would be forever scarred by it. Hopefully, we’ll see the owners finally come to their senses and realize that they’re fighting a losing game here. We all want to see baseball played this year, and it would be nice for the owners to finally get on the same page with the rest of the baseball world.