Manfred players

Rob Manfred says MLB, players ‘owe it to our fans to be better’ – ESPN

8:46 PM ET

  • Associated Press

NEW YORK — Rob Manfred knows many fans were angered by the financial fight between Major League Baseball and the players’ association during a pandemic.

“We need to get back on the field, and we need to in a less-charged environment start to have conversations about how we — and the we in that sentence is the commissioner’s office, my staff, the clubs and the MLBPA and the players — can be better going forward,” he said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press. “We owe it to our fans to be better than we’ve been last three months.”

Spring training was cut short by the novel coronavirus on March 12. The sides reached an initial agreement on March 26, which was to have been opening day. That deal called for players to receive prorated salaries, get $170 million in advances and receive a guarantee of service time in the event no games were played this year.

When it became clear the only way to start the season was to play in empty ballparks, the sides battled publicly over what the agreement meant.

Owners said players needed to accept additional cuts and proposed an 82-game schedule starting around the Fourth of July. Players argued they shouldn’t have to accept less than the original deal called for. But that agreement didn’t bind Manfred to start the season with no gate revenue.

Vitriol rose in baseball’s worst infighting since the 7 1/2-month strike of 1994-95 wiped out the World Series for the first time in nine decades. The union rejected the last proposal for a financial agreement, then finished protocols to play in the pandemic on Tuesday and promised players will start reporting July 1 for a 60-game season scheduled to start July 23 or 24, MLB’s briefest since 1878.

“The focus here was on a day’s wage for a day’s worth of work,” union head Tony Clark said during a separate interview with the AP. “That’s what we believed was fair, and that’s why we maintained the position that we did.”

In the view of many, the outcome left losers on both sides. MLB already has experienced four straight seasons of declining average attendance.

“In my opinion, it’s a damn shame that the ramifications of this are going to be felt for a long time,” said Cincinnati catcher Tucker Barnhart, the Reds’ player representative. “I grew up a baseball fan, I’m a baseball fan first, and I think it sucks that it’s had to go on the way that it is. But I hope that getting out and playing will kind of mask some of the bruises that the game as a whole has taken over the last few months.”

MLB intends to start without fans in ballparks, even in places where government and medical officials allow some spectators.

“I think we need to get on the ground running and get comfortable that we can play games in empty stadiums safely before we move forward fans,” Manfred said. “My patience in that regard is in part based on the fact that there are so many different situations. Some places there looks like there’s no prospect, other places they’re more aggressive. I think we need to be patient and even where we have the option, we need to make sure that we know exactly what we’re doing before we jump into it.”

Owners decided to go ahead with a season despite the threat of a grievance from the union, which has claimed MLB did not adhere to provisions in the March 26 agreement requiring the longest schedule economically feasible. That deal also included additional provisions such fans being allowed into all 30 ballparks and no relevant travel restrictions.

“Every time you make a decision like this, you balance risk and reward,” Manfred said. “I think the clubs felt that the most important objective was to get the game back on the field, and because that was the most important objective, they were prepared to bear whatever risk was associated with a grievance that is — let me be really clear about this: utterly without merit.”

Clark would not directly respond when asked whether lasting damage had been inflicted.

“I think there is an opportunity to move forward, move our game forward,” he said. “And as it relates to the atmosphere in general, the lines of communication remain open, and we’ll count that as a positive in the days ahead. “

Because there was no financial agreement, the postseason is slated to remain at 10 teams rather than expand to 16. MLB could attempt to make another proposal for a larger postseason.

“I would simply say that if there’s interest to discuss something, I’ll be available to discuss it,” Clark said.

He maintained the decision by the executive board to reject the last plan Monday was not a choice of a grievance over a deal.

“The grievance was not the focus, never has been the focus,” he said. “The goal, and that’s why we sent across proposals, was to attempt to find common ground on an agreement. We simply were unable to do so.”

He would not address last week’s one-on-one meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, which Manfred said produced a framework for a deal and Clark called merely a management proposal. Manfred has maintained Clark promised to try to persuade players to accept it, then said a few hours later he could not get their support.

“Rob can focus on his side and I’ll focus on mine,” Clark said.

Clark defended the union’s decision not to accept MLB’s offer to eliminate free-agent compensation, which could hurt several players’ value next offseason.

“It was associated with significant salary cuts,” he said.

As baseball prepares to resume, Manfred and his staff have watched European soccer leagues carry on with closed-door matches.

“We normally think about our product as two products, the live product and the broadcast product,” he said. “Given our current situation, I think that the goal is to make the broadcast product, because it’s the only one we have, as entertaining for fans as we possibly can. We’re working closely with the RSNs and our national partners in an effort to give the game a zeal that will be satisfying to our fans without having the normal crowd noise and excitement that’s created by that environment.”

Broadcasts possibly may contain artificial crowd noise.

“We’re still making decisions about that,” he said. “I like what they’ve done in England and Germany because I think it’s innovative and I think that the current situation calls for us to try some things that are different.”

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Manfred report

Report: Rob Manfred Expected to Mandate 2020 Season If MLBPA Rejects Proposal – Bleacher Report

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during MLB baseball owners meetings, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2src2src, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

John Raoux/Associated Press

If Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association cannot come to terms on a plan to hold the 2020 season, commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly expected to intervene.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the players union executive board is set to vote on the league’s proposal of a 60-game season. If it is vetoed, Manfred is expected to mandate and set a schedule for the 2020 season.

Heyman added that whether Manfred mandates a 2020 season will also depend if it’s determined to be safe to play baseball during the coronavirus pandemic.

Heyman also reported that the eight-man union executive subcommittee may be “near unanimous” in voting against MLB’s proposal. Colorado Rockies infielder Daniel Murphy may be the only person leaning in the other direction, meaning it could be a 7-1 vote against the proposal.

Per ESPN’s Jesse RogersMLBPA executive director Tony Clark said Friday in a statement that the league informed him it was sticking with its most recent offer of a 60-game schedule with full prorated salaries: “MLB has informed the Association that it will not respond to our last proposal and will not play more than 60 games. Our Executive Board will convene in the near future to determine next steps. Importantly, players remain committed to getting back to work as soon as possible.”

When MLB initially proposed that offer, the union countered with a 70-game proposal. If the players association does not accept the terms, there will likely be no additional offers and the decision will be firmly in Manfred’s hands.

The 2020 MLB season had been scheduled to start in late March, but play was halted during spring training because of the coronavirus pandemic. Even though NASCAR and golf have resumed and both the NBA and NHL have plans to resume their seasons next month, MLB has been unable to come to terms.

One of the biggest initial hang-ups was MLB’s reluctance to pay players full prorated salaries given the significant revenue hit the league is set to take. Teams will play far fewer than their scheduled 162 games, which will hurt television revenue, and there will be no gate revenue since fans have not been given clearance to attend games.

MLB relented on the full prorated salaries, but the MLBPA is hoping for a slightly longer schedule than 60 games to recoup more money.

If a 60-game season is a non-starter for the union, then its best bet is to reject the proposal and hope Manfred either goes with 70 games or meets the sides somewhere in the middle.

One risk in that scenario, however, is that the current proposal includes expanded playoffs, which would mean more money for the players who play on teams that qualify for the postseason. It is possible Manfred could scrap that as part of his mandate.

MLB and the union must also continue to worry about the COVID-19 situation, as all spring training camps were shut down this week following some positive coronavirus tests.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported Saturday that teams will shift their spring training camps to their home cities as a result.

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