As prelude to baseball's first official event since spring training unceremoniously screeched to a halt in mid-March, commissioner Rob Manfred on Wednesday promised that there will be baseball in 2020, though he would prefer to avoid imposing a wildly abbreviated schedule on the players.
"We're going to play baseball in 2020, 100 percent," Manfred said during an interview with MLB Network that aired shortly before the start of the MLB draft. "One way or another, we're playing Major League Baseball."
The players offered a counter-proposal to the owners Tuesday that suggested an 89-game season and full, prorated salaries for those games. The owners have wanted to shrink the cost of salaries, repackaging the same spending over and over again in their proposals -- which have included gradations of pay cuts and even a far shorter season.
Manfred told MLB Network that the owners would have a reply for the union in the near future.
He added that the owners' next proposal "moves in the player direction in terms of salary."
The owners believe based upon an agreement in March, made shortly after the pandemic closed camps and postponed indefinitely the start of the season, that they can impose a season on the players, and the players would be left with little recourse, except for an extreme response. Manfred said on the network that the "best" thing for the sport is to have a "negotiated agreement," not a forced one.
The owners want to fit a schedule in before the end of October, complete with a postseason. Manfred said that's because experts are urging them to finish sooner and avoid the threat of losing the end of a season to another wave of the coronavirus.
The global pandemic is one of two crises gripping the country, and Manfred began the draft with an opening statement addressing the other.
With a logo of a baseball and Black Lives Matter behind him, Manfred called the "outrage" over racial injustice a "call to action." He added that Major League Baseball, its clubs, and its players should use the platform of the game to be more than "allies, but active participants in social change."
These were his most descriptive statements yet after he and Major League Baseball were criticized for being slow to respond with a statement following the death of George Floyd at the knee of a police office in Minneapolis.
Executives with each team will be donating to organizations under the banner present in the draft, "Black Lives Matter: United For Change."