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Believe It or Not, Baseball's Problems Are Only Getting Worse With Time

Commissioner Rob Manfred's statement Monday night that he's not certain baseball will get back on the field in 2020 is one more sign that the sport is deep, deep trouble.
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It seems difficult to believe, but things between Major League Baseball players and owners are actually getting worse.

Things seemed to have bottomed out last week when the owners essentially told the players they could play 50 games or 70 games, either way getting the same amount of money.

It was at that point that the players threw in the towel on negotiations. They said the owners weren’t dealing in good faith as the sport attempts to get back on the field, and it was just too much.

So, the players told management that the ball was in their court. Name a date, announce a schedule and we’ll show up, they said.

Today the owners’ representative, commissioner Rob Manfred, the same man who guaranteed less than two weeks ago that there would be a season, all of a sudden isn’t so sure. Talking with ESPN Monday night, he didn’t say anything that would suggest baseball would be back anytime soon.

Rather than name a date or set a schedule, Manfred reacted to the players by blinking.

“The owners are 100 percent committed to getting baseball back on the field,” he said “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m 100 percent certain that’s going to happen.”

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Manfred does understand that baseball is in a mess – two teams have been caught up in a cheating scandal dating back to 2017, the minor league system that feeds the big leagues are under attack and now the sport is being run by people who obviously have no desire get it back on the field – even if he wouldn’t tell the world.

“It’s just a disaster for our game,” Manfred told ESPN. “Absolutely no question about it. It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans.”

Manfred isn’t an oligarch in the same sense that commissioners in other sports are. He works for the owners. He does what the owners want. From the fact that the owners were given carte blanche to name a season’s start date and schedule and didn’t, it’s not much of a leap to believe the owners don’t want a season. Their “100 percent” commitment looks shaky.

The owners could yet prove that thesis wrong. But they could have done it any time in the last couple of weeks, too, and haven’t.

Baseball is in deep, deep trouble.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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