Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred clarified Thursday comments he made earlier in the week regarding negotiations the league had with the MLB Players Association about the length of the 2020 season. On Wednesday, Manfred appeared on The Dan Patrick Show and said the following:
"The reality is we weren't going to play more than 60 games no matter how the negotiations with the players went."
This comment is notable because the players union is expected to file a grievance against the owners for not negotiating in good faith when the two sides tried to come up with an agreement on a season. Negotiations began in mid-May and players repeatedly pushed for a longer season, but owners never agreed to pay players full prorated salaries for any season longer than 60 games. Manfred ended up mandating a season without the two sides reaching a new agreement.
Saying that the season was going to be 60 games regardless of the negotiating process seems like something the MLBPA will point to in any grievance about bad faith. Manfred tried to walk the comments back Thursday and said he was referencing that the season could not have started earlier due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"If we had started an 82-game season [beginning July 1], we would have had people in Arizona and Florida the time the second spike hit," Manfred said.
"...My point was that no matter what happened with the union, the way things unfolded with the second spike. We would have ended up with only time for 60 games, anyway. As time went on, it became clearer and clearer that the course of the virus was going to dictate how many games we could play."
Manfred went on to say that he thinks MLB will be "lucky" to play its full 60-game season after COVID-19 cases have spiked across the country in recent weeks.
"We just weren't going to be able to play more than 60 games at that point," he added. "With everything being shut down. The reality is that we're going to be lucky if we get 60 games now given the course of the virus."
Manfred and the owners were worried about a potential grievance even before he implemented a schedule, so it's not a surprise that he attempted to clarify his remarks.
However, seeing Manfred say it will be "lucky" to get the 60 games in is a bit jarring. The thought of a season opening and then shutting down before we see a World Series appears to be a possibility on his mind.