NEW YORK – Rob Manfred knows 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 to in a less-charged environment start to have conversations about how we — and the we in that sentence is the commissioner’s office, my staff, the clubs and the MLBPA and the players — can be better going forward,” he said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press. “We owe it to our fans to be better than we’ve been the last three months.”
Spring training was cut short by the novel coronavirus on March 12. The sides reached an initial agreement on March 26, which was to have been opening day. That deal called for players to receive prorated salaries, get $170 million in advances and receive a guarantee of service time in the event no games were played this year.
When it became clear the only way to start the season was to play in empty ballparks, the sides battled publicly over what the agreement meant.
Owners said players needed to accept additional cuts and proposed an 82-game schedule starting around the Fourth of July. Players argued they shouldn’t have to accept less than the original deal called for. But that agreement didn’t bind Manfred to start the season with no gate revenue.
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 last proposal for a financial agreement, then finished protocols to play in the pandemic on Tuesday and promised players will start reporting July 1 for a 60-game season scheduled to start July 23 or 24, MLB's briefest since 1878.
“The focus here was on a day’s wage for a day’s worth of work,” union head Tony Clark said during a separate interview with the AP. “That’s what we believed was fair, and that’s why we maintained the position that we did.”
In the view of many, the outcome left losers on both sides. MLB already has experienced four straight seasons of declining average attendance.