Los Angeles (AFP) - Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday he is no longer confident that the coronavirus-hit 2020 season will be played as a financial wrangle with players remained deadlocked.
Manfred, who last week said he was "100 percent" confident of baseball being played this year, told ESPN that he fears the season may now be scrapped.
"I'm not confident," Manfred said. "I think there's real risk; and as long as there's no dialogue, that real risk is gonna continue."
The players' union broke off talks with the league over the weekend, saying further discussions would be "futile."
MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark fired back at Manfred on Monday night describing the players as being "disgusted."
"Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans that there would '100 percent' be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back and his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season.
"This latest threat is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning. This has always been about extracting additional pay cuts from Players and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign," he said.
MLB owners and the players remain sharply divided over the financial terms players should receive for participating in a shortened season. The league was due to start on March 26 but was postponed as the coronavirus pandemic erupted.
Manfred said the dispute was damaging the reputation of baseball.
"It's just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it," Manfred told ESPN. "It shouldn't be happening, and it's important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans."
Manfred insisted that team owners were determined to find a way to play baseball this year.
"The owners are 100 percent committed to getting baseball back on the field," Manfred said.
"Unfortunately, I can't tell you that I'm 100 percent certain that's gonna happen."
The chance that there will be no season took another blow on Monday when the commissioner's office told the players' association it will not go forward with a schedule unless the union waives its right to claim management violated a March deal between the two sides.
USA Today reported on Monday night that MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to lead player union lawyer Bruce Meyer that "several" major league players and staffers have tested positive for COVID-19.
The point was made as part of MLB's argument against starting spring training soon and also against continuing the regular season into October.
"The proliferation of COVID-19 outbreaks around the country over the last week, and the fact that we already know of several 40-man roster players and staff who have tested positive, has increased the risks associated with commencing spring training in the next few weeks," Halem wrote.