Ricketts on MLB's ongoing squabble: We're running out of time
A day after taking a positive step forward for the first time in weeks, major-league baseball and owners hit another bump on Thursday.
Trying to salvage a shortened season amid the coronavirus pandemic, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was feeling good about getting the game back on the field after meeting face-to-face with MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark earlier in the week.
"We left (Tuesday's) meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement," Manfred said.
The key to the agreement, in Manfred's understanding, was the union getting full prorated salaries for 60 regular season games.
In Clark's view, the framework opened the door for more than 60 games. So there is your latest sticking point in the ongoing squabble.
"In my discussions with Rob in Arizona, we explored a potential pro rata framework, but I made clear repeatedly in that meeting and after it that there were a number of significant issues with what he proposed, in particular the number of games," Clark said in a statement Thursday. "It is unequivocally false to suggest that any tentative agreement or other agreement was reached in that meeting. In fact, in conversations within the last 24 hours, Rob invited a counterproposal for more games that he would take back to the owners. We submitted that counterproposal today."
Maybe the two sides will ultimately compromise and settle on 65 games, followed by an expanded postseason.
Or, Manfred could impose the owners' negotiated right to implement a 60-game season.
The clock is running, and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is hoping a deal gets done by early next week.
"First and foremost, we want to get baseball back on the field," Ricketts said. "I think the owners are pretty much all on the same page. We're trying to get the game started again. With respect to blow by blow (insight on negotiations), I'm going to stay out of that.
"The fact is, both sides have been working to try to get something that works. It felt like (Wednesday), something was coming into focus and that kind of slipped away from us. But I'm sure both sides are going to work hard over the weekend because frankly, we're running out of time. Hopefully, we'll get everyone to come together and come to something that works for the players and the league."
Along with Bears president Ted Phillips and Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf, Ricketts spoke during the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting Thursday, this one via video.
Fans seem to overwhelmingly favor the players in this tiresome dispute, but there is no doubt major-league owners are in a difficult spot.
"The fact is, just the timing of when the virus hit was particularly bad for baseball," Ricketts said. "We didn't get any of our games in and people forget, we have a lot of player salary and that's the biggest expense we have. But we also have 600 full-time employees we're carrying with effectively zero revenue. We have 2,700 part-time and seasonal employees that we have had to help out a little bit, too.
"The timing was particularly bad for baseball. It's going to be a very, very financially difficult time for baseball. But the most important thing at this point is thinking about our fans, doing what's right for the game, doing what's right for the people that support us. That's why we're all working together as hard as we can to try to get baseball back on the field."