MLB conducted negotiations through the media Monday as it resumed trying to pay players as little in salary as possible this year. While commissioner Rob Manfred was doing a flip-flop on whether a season will be played, his deputy, Dan Halem, was using positive COVID-19 test results for unnamed players and coaches to emphasize the safety risks of playing.
Halem wrote to union attorney Bruce Meyer that the results, and MLB’s fear that infections will spike again in mid-autumn, are why baseball wants to end the regular season on Sept. 27 — not that it wants to save millions of dollars in prorated salaries.
“We strongly disagree with your assertion that our concern about player health and safety in the midst of the greatest health crisis in our lifetime is a ‘pretext’ to play fewer games,” Halem wrote to Meyer in a letter obtained by USA Today. “As you are aware, while the language in [the March 26 agreement] states that the Office of the Commissioner will use ‘best efforts to play as many games as possible,’ a very important qualifier to that provision is that the schedule must take into account ‘player safety and health.’
“That qualifier was inserted … because neither party had [a] crystal ball in March 2020 to predict the COVID-19 situation at the time the 2020 season was to resume (if at all).”
Manfred told ESPN on Monday he now is “not confident” a season will be played, citing union intransigence. Less than a week ago, he said he was “100 percent” certain play would begin.
Players such as Trevor Bauer and Christian Yelich saw Manfred’s newfound pessimism as an attempt to stall for time to ensure the regular season would be 50 to 55 games long.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement that Manfred’s comments were another instance of him negotiating in bad faith. Manfred earlier had said Clark was negotiating in bad faith by threatening to file a grievance if Manfred were to impose a start time and season length, which he has the power to do per a March 26 agreement between the sides.
The Associated Press reported earlier Monday that MLB told the MLBPA in Halem’s letter that it would not start the season unless the union waived its rights to claim that baseball violated the agreement. The Athletic reported early Tuesday (subscription required) that Halem presented the union with three options: waive their rights, move to an expedited arbitration hearing or resume negotiations on pay and other issues.
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