After nearly two months of tense discussions that rarely ventured into actual negotiations, commissioner Rob Manfred admitted Wednesday that Major League Baseball never had intended to stage anything longer than a 60-game regular season in 2020.
The surprising revelation — the surprising part being that Manfred said it out loud — occurred during an appearance on Dan Patrick’s radio show.
60 games or bust
The 17-minute interview coincided with the opening of MLB's summer camp. Naturally, baseball's return was the focus of the entire interview, but the first three minutes are what caught the attention of baseball fans.
When asked to rate the job he did during the negotiating process, Manfred quickly veered to the following.
“The reality is we weren’t going to play more than 60 games no matter how the negotiations with the players went, or any other factor,” Manfred told Patrick. “I think this is the one thing we come back to every single day: we’re trying to manage something that has proven to be unpredictable and unmanageable. I know it hasn’t looked particularly pretty in spots, but having said that, if we can pull off this 60-game season, I think it was the best we were going to do for our fans given the course of the virus.
“It’s the calendar. We’re playing 60 games in 63 days right now. I don’t see, given the reality of the health situation over the past few weeks, how we were going to get going any faster than the calendar we’re on right now. No matter what the state of those negotiations were.”
For something so unpredictable, Manfred seemed pretty convinced that the coronavirus would only give MLB a 60-game window.
Were MLB’s negotiations a sham?
That’s a question many are asking right now.
Over the course of three months, MLB and the players union traded proposals that despite seeming like progress on the surface, were each rejected with more fervor than the one before. The stalemate ultimately led Manfred to implement a 60-game schedule that is tentatively slated to begin on July 23.
Early on in the talks, there were indications that MLB hoped to stage opening day on July 4. That would have created a window to play at least 82 games, or one game more than half a regular season. Once those discussions stalled, officials within the MLBPA were reportedly concerned that the owners were stalling the negotiations to push back the start date. That tactic would serve to limit the number of games played and thus limit the prorated salary each player would receive.
Though he attempted to wrap it around concerns and unknowns regarding the coronavirus, Manfred’s comments will do nothing to sway that notion.
In fact, they’re more likely to convince more people MLB was never negotiating in good faith.
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