Yesterday there was some confusion with respect to the ongoing negotiations between the players and the owners. Specifically: Rob Manfred was confused that there was an ongoing negotiation. He thought he had a deal.
Really. This is what he just told the press in response to getting the MLBPA’s counteroffer a couple of hours ago:
Manfred says he went to Arizona to make a deal with #MLBPA director Tony Clark, denying it was only a proposal: “I don’t know what Tony and I were doing there for several hours going back and forth and making trades if we weren’t reaching an agreement.”
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 18, 2020
You’ll recall that the initial report of that offer, from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, was that the sides were “closing in on a deal.” The MLBPA immediately contradicted that, however:
Reports of an agreement are false.
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 17, 2020
So even if Manfred thought, somehow, that a face-to-face meeting with the MLBPA executive director, talking about broad terms without their respective legal teams present, resulted in a deal he knew by 3:01 PM Eastern time yesterday that he was mistaken. And, in any event, it was widely reported all yesterday afternoon and evening that MLB had made an offer of 60 games, and no one from Major League Baseball apparently pushed back on those reports.
So why in the heck is Manfred now saying he thought they had a deal? If I had to guess, I’d say that this is a continued function of a thing I talked about over the weekend: Manfred doesn’t have control of the ownership group, and in order to try to keep everyone in his disparate group of owners happy, he’s having to lurch from one position to another, reacting to their anger or objections while he is also dealing with the MLBPA.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t think of any other reason why an otherwise competent attorney and negotiator like Manfred is would conclude that a deal was done until a deal was 100%, absolutely done. Indeed, every attorney and negotiator knows that your work isn’t done until there is ink to paper.
In any event, the MLBPA has just responded:
Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark today released the following statement: pic.twitter.com/MNAVfzx75C
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 18, 2020
For Manfred to keep this “I thought we had a deal” line up, he has to accuse Tony Clark of lying. I don’t think he’s going to do that. Because I don’t think he really believes they had a deal. I think he needs certain owners to believe that.