‘We owe it to our fans to be better’

NEW YORK (AP) – 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. “It may be better to move on,” he said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “We owe it to our fans to be better than we have been in the past three months.”

Spring training was interrupted for the new coronavirus on March 12. The parties reached an initial agreement 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 around the fourth of July. 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. slated to begin July 23 or 24, the shortest in 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 is what we thought was fair, and that is why we kept the position we did.”

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 ramifications of this are felt for a long time,” said Cincinnati wide receiver Tucker Barnhart, the Reds’ player representative. “I grew up as a baseball fan, first I am a baseball fan, and I think it sucks that I had to continue as is. But I hope that going out and playing can mask some of the bruising that the game as a whole has suffered in recent 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 should start running and feel comfortable being able to play in empty stadiums safely before moving forward with the fans,” said Manfred. “My patience in this regard is due in part to the fact that there are many different situations. It seems that in some places there are no prospects, others are more aggressive. I think we should be patient and even where we have a choice, we must make sure that we know exactly what we are doing before we jump into it. ”

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, such as allowing 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: absolutely 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 atmosphere in general, the lines of communication remain open, and we will consider it positive in the coming days. “

Because there was no financial agreementThe 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 objective, and that is 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’s the only one we have, as entertaining as possible for fans. We are working closely with RSNs and our national partners in an effort to give the game a zeal that satisfies 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 it is innovative and I think the current situation forces us to try some things that are different. “


AP sports writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.


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