MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
Hoping to get Major League Baseball on track to start its season paused due to Covid-19, league commissioner Rob Manfred wasted no time using the nation’s top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made headlines on Thursday when he told CNN that the NFL’s season was in danger this fall due to concerns of a second wave of the coronavirus.
“If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year,” Fauci said.
Manfred referenced Fauci’s comments as negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLPBA) have stalled. With football threatened as second-wave concerns intensify, the MLB will need to decide on its future soon as time is running out.
“Dr. Fauci’s out there telling us that football should playing in a quarantine. The other two sports [the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League] are playing in a quarantine,” Manfred told the Associated Press. “Our guys want nothing to do with that.
“Number two,” Manfred added, “Fauci says we shouldn’t be playing in October, and their proposal contemplates lengthening the season,” he said, citing the MLBPA’s desire to increase the number of games played to 70, which could push the season into early November.
Manfred added that doubleheaders would be eliminated from any return to play proposal, citing health concerns of gathering “people together for that number of hours in the day.” Manfred said the MLBPA is “ignoring those things.”
The latest war of words comes after Manfred suggested a deal was close following a meeting in Phoenix with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Manfred said the two sides “jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement and subject to conversations with our respective constituents.”
Clark offered another version of the meeting and claimed a deal was never agreed to as significant issues needed to be resolved. The union also countered the fourth MLB proposal, requesting a 70-game season, up from 60, scheduled to commence on July 19.
The MLBPA is also requesting $1.73 billion in total salary, up from the league’s offer of $1.43 billion, and $50 million allocated to a postseason player pool, according to the Associated Press. Both plans include expanded postseason games, which could benefit club owners as they can monetize the extra games.
The MLB hopes to join the NFL in getting a boost from media rights of the added playoff games. According to industry sources, the NFL agreed to one-year deals with CBS and NBC Sports for approximately $70 million each for the rights to host newly created wildcard games. With live sports so profitable, the trend could continue throughout leagues as postseason contests have increased advertising value.
Though the two sides resolved playing players their full prorated salary agreed to in March, Manfred rejected the MLBPA’s proposal. Manfred does carry the power to issue the start of a season, per the March agreement, but appears reluctant to use the option as legal concerns could arise.
Manfred called for the matter to be resolved, but added, “until I speak with owners, I can’t give you a firm deadline.”
Correction: The headline of this story has been updated with the correct spelling of Anthony Fauci’s name.