Commissioner Rob Manfred guaranteed “unequivocally” that Major League Baseball will have a 2020 season.
What Manfred could not guarantee Wednesday night in his comments to MLB Network and ESPN from the 2020 draft was how long or short that season will be.
That number — somewhere between 48 and 82 games — is still very much in the air because the owners so far are unwilling to meet the players’ demand for 100 percent of their prorated salaries in a season any longer than approximately 50 games. That’s a length the commissioner has the power to impose, but for now he said the owners want to continue to negotiate with the players.
The players submitted an 89-game proposal at full 100 percent prorated salaries Tuesday night. Manfred said the MLBPA can expect a counteroffer in the near future. He hinted that the new offer would be a “significant move in the players’ direction” but “if we have to, we’ll exercise that right” to set a 48-game or so season.
The last offer the owners submitted was a 76-game schedule in which the players would receive 50 percent of their prorated salaries and, if the postseason was able to be completed, they’d get another 25 percent.
Earlier, the owners began with an 82-game schedule at 60 percent of prorated pay.
The players rejected both the percentage and the conditional aspect to the percentage in their Tuesday night counteroffer, and there is no expectation they will alter their stance on maintaining full prorated pay for a season of any length.
The players proposed beginning a season on July 10 and finishing it on Oct. 11.
The owners want the regular season wrapped up by Sept. 27 in order to increase the odds that they can stage a full postseason. The owners cite worries and concerns from their medical and public health consultants that a postseason that extends into November might fall victim to a second wave of COVID-19.
Manfred said he hoped that the union will “get off the 100 percent salary demand and recognize that 89 games in this point in the calendar and in a pandemic, it’s just not realistic.”
MLB is also concerned about meeting expectations from TV rights-holders who plan to broadcast the postseason in October and not November.
Manfred was definitive about baseball being played.
“I’ll tell you unequivocally: We will play major league baseball this year,” he said.
“We’re going to play baseball in 2020. One hundred percent. If it has to be under the March 26 agreement, if we get to that point in the calendar, so be it. But one way or the other, we’re playing major league baseball.”