Manfred has 'great confidence' baseball will resume; projects $4 billion loss if season is shelved
As negotiations between owners and players near the end of the first week, here is the latest on the two sides trying to reach an agreement and get back to playing baseball:
•During an interview on CNN Thursday night, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was optimistic the game will be back this summer, and he downplayed the growing speculation that owners and players won't be able to reach an agreement.
"Whenever there's a discussion about economics, publicly people tend to characterize it as a fight," Manfred said on CNN's Global Town Hall with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "Me, personally, I have great confidence that we'll reach an agreement with the players' association, both that it's safe to come back to work and work out the economic issues that need to be resolved."
If economic -- and/or safety -- agreements fall through, Manfred said the losses would be "devastating."
"We're a big business, but we're a seasonal business," Manfred said. "Unfortunately, this crisis began at kind of the low point for us in terms of revenue. We hadn't quite started our season yet, and if we don't play a season the losses for the owners could approach $4 billion."
Manfred confirmed MLB wants to begin playing games in empty stadiums in early July. He also said there would be multiple tests for the coronavirus conducted on a weekly basis, supplemental antibody testing and daily temperature checks and analysis.
"Nothing is risk-free in this undertaking," Manfred said. "We're trying to mitigate that risk with the repeated point-of-care testing to make sure that people who have had contact have not been exposed, and by obviously removing those individuals that have a positive test. They will be quarantined until they have two negative tests over a 24-hour period."
•There has been speculation that even if a deal is reached and the game returns in early July, some major-league players are prepared to sit out the abbreviated season.
Obvious health concerns are an issue, and so is money.
For Blake Snell, the ace starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays and 2018 Cy Young Award winner, the owners' reported proposal to share revenues in a 50-50 split with players after initially agreeing to pay prorated salaries is a two-pronged problem.
"I'm not playing unless I get mine," Snell said on a Twitch broadcast. "That's just the way it is for me. Like, I'm sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way higher and the amount of money I'm making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that? You all (have to) understand (because) you all are going to be like, 'Blake, play for the love of the game. What's wrong with you? The money should not be a thing.'
"Bro. I am risking my life. And then be on lockdown, not around my family, not around the people I love, and getting paid way the (heck) less. And then the risk of injury runs every time I step on the field. So it's just, just not worth it. It's not. I love baseball to death, it's just not worth it."
•It is true owners agreed to pay players prorated salaries when talks about resuming the season began in late March.
Owners now want to reverse course and implement revenue sharing because games are very likely to be played without fans in the stands for an extended period, assuming there are games.
"The whole agreement is premised on the season was only going to resume in front of fans," an MLB attorney directly involved with the negotiations told USA Today. "The way it was structured, the season was not starting unless we can play with fans at either home ballparks or neutral sites. That was understood.
"We knew going in that it was not economically feasible to play without fans with the way the deal was structured. We bargained for the right to not start the season if we could not play in front of fans."
Owners are expected to formally submit their revenue sharing proposal to the Major League Players Association next week.
"For the life of me, I don't understand the argument that the issue of pay is settled," the MLB attorney said. "They (players) recognized it would have to be under discussion if we couldn't play in front of fans. This is not a situation we missed something, or the language was interpreting something different. Look, at this time in crisis, we should get together in good faith and become partners.
"It is highly counterproductive for the players to have an inaccurate understanding on the agreement that we struck in March. We are willing to do what the agreement says, and that's to have discussions in good faith. It's time to get together and do a good thing for our country, and get people back to baseball."