Rob Manfred Says MLB, Players ‘Owe Our Fans To Be Better’

NEW YORK – Rob Manfred knows that many fans were angered by the financial fight between Major League Baseball and the players’ association during a pandemic.

“We need to get back on the field, and we need in a less charged environment to start having conversations about how we – and we in that sentence are the commissioner’s office, my staff, the clubs and the MLBPA and the players – can be better in the future. “he said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press. “We owe it to our fans to be better than we have been the past three months.”

Spring training was interrupted by the new coronavirus on March 12. The parties reached an initial agreement on March 26, which should have been the opening day. That deal required players to receive prorated salaries, receive $ 170 million in advances, and receive a time-of-service guarantee in the event games were not played this year.

When it became clear that the only way to start the season was to play in empty stadiums, the parties publicly fought over what the deal meant.

The owners said players had to accept additional cuts and proposed an 82-game schedule starting July 4. Players argued that they should not have to accept less than the original agreement requested. But that deal didn’t force Manfred to start the season with no income.

Vitriol rose in baseball’s worst infighting since the 7-1 / 2-month strike of 1994-95 wiped out the World Series for the first time in nine decades. The union rejected the latest proposal for a financial deal, then ended protocols for playing the pandemic on Tuesday, and promised that players will begin reporting on July 1 for a 60-game season scheduled to begin on July 23 or 24, the shortest MLB since 1878.

“The focus here was on a day’s wages for a day’s work,” union chief Tony Clark said during a separate interview with the AP. “That’s what we thought was fair, and that’s why we kept the position we made.”

In the opinion of many, the result left losers on both sides. MLB has already experienced four consecutive seasons of declining average attendance.

“In my opinion, it’s a shame that the consequences of this are felt for a long time,” said Cincinnati wide receiver Tucker Barnhart, the Reds’ representative. “I grew up as a baseball fan, first I am a baseball fan, and I think it sucks that I have had to follow the path that it is. But I hope that going out and playing masks some of the bruises that the game as a whole has taken in the past few months.” .

MLB intends to start without fans in baseball stadiums, even in places where the government and medical officials allow some spectators.

“I think we need to get going and feel comfortable being able to play in empty stadiums safely before moving forward with the fans,” said Manfred. “My patience in that regard is based in part on the fact that there are many different situations. In some places there seems to be no prospect, others are more aggressive. I think we should be patient and even where we have the choice we have to make sure that we know exactly what we are doing before we jump. “

The owners decided to go ahead with one season despite the threat of a union complaint, which has claimed that MLB did not adhere to the provisions of the March 26 deal that requires the longest financially possible timeline. That deal also included additional provisions that allowed fans to enter all 30 stadiums and no relevant travel restrictions.

“Every time you make a decision like this, you balance risk and reward,” Manfred said. “I think the clubs felt that the most important goal was to get the game back on the field, and because that was the most important goal, they were prepared to take any risk associated with a complaint that is – let me be really clear about this: completely without merit. “

Clark did not respond directly when asked if lasting damage had been inflicted.

“I think there is an opportunity to move forward, move our game forward,” he said. “And when it comes to the overall atmosphere, the lines of communication remain open, and we will consider it positive in the coming days.”

Because there was no financial deal, the postseason is slated to stay on 10 teams instead of expanding to 16. MLB could try to make another proposal for a bigger postseason.

“I would just say that if there is an interest in discussing something, I will be available to discuss it,” Clark said.

He upheld the executive board’s decision to reject the latest plan on Monday, it was not an election of a complaint about a deal.

“The complaint was not the focus, it has never been the focus,” he said. “The goal, and that’s why we sent proposals, was to try to find common ground in an agreement. We just couldn’t do it.”

He declined to discuss last week’s one-on-one meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, which Manfred said produced a framework for a deal, and Clark simply called it a management proposal. Manfred has maintained that Clark promised to try to persuade the players to accept him, then said a few hours later that he could not get their support.

“Rob can focus on his side and I will focus on mine,” Clark said.

Clark defended the union’s decision not to accept MLB’s offer to remove free-agent compensation, which could damage the value of multiple players in the upcoming offseason.

“It was associated with significant pay cuts,” he said.

As baseball prepares to resume, Manfred and his staff have watched the European football leagues continue to play behind closed doors.

“Normally we think of our product as two products, the live product and the streaming product,” he said. “Given our current situation, I think the goal is to make the broadcast product, because it is the only one we have, as entertaining as possible for fans. We are working closely with RSN and our national partners in an effort to give the I play an enthusiasm that will be satisfying to our fans without having the normal noise and excitement of the crowd creating that environment. “

Transmissions may possibly contain artificial crowd noise.

“We are still making decisions about it,” he said. “I like what they have done in England and Germany because I think they are innovative and I think the current situation requires us to try things that are different.”