(Reuters) – Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Monday he is “not confident” a 2020 season will happen now that the players’ union broke off talks about a return-to-play plan amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Manfred’s comments, made during an appearance on ESPN’s ‘The Return of Sports’ special, are a dramatic shift in tone given just last week he pegged the likelihood of a 2020 season as “100%.”
“I’m not confident,” Manfred said when asked if there would be a season. “I think there’s real risk; and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue.”
MLB and the players’ union have been trying to find common ground on a return-to-play plan for the 2020 season but have been unable to reach agreement in areas like player compensation and the number of games played.
On Saturday, the union rejected MLB’s latest offer, opted not to counter and said further talks with the league would be futile.
“It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it,” said Manfred. “It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association on Monday denied that it was responsible for delaying progress on a return to play.
“This latest threat is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning,” the union said in a statement.
MLB was scheduled to open its 162-game regular season in late March but delayed the campaign due to the pandemic.
The players have previously proposed a 114-game regular season with full prorated pay and expanded playoffs.
But owners would reportedly prefer a shorter regular season with a sliding pay scale, and an assurance that the post-season would be completed by Nov. 1 amid concerns about a potential second wave of novel coronavirus infections.
“The owners are a hundred percent committed to getting baseball back on the field,” said Manfred. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m a hundred percent certain that’s gonna happen.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)