MLB Is Likely to Play in 2020, But a Strike Is Looming on the Horizon

Rob Manfred at the 2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings
Rob Manfred at the 2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Major League Baseball had quite the weekend. The sport swiftly and stunningly shot itself in the foot, as the MLB Players Association said it was done negotiating with the owners. The players told the league to inform them when and where to report for the 2020 season, they were done working on an agreement to open the season.

That development was disheartening for fans, but it does look like we'll be getting baseball in 2020. While that's great, the problem comes in the form of labor unrest, which is extremely high right now. The owners and players were already headed for tense negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement when the current deal runs out in 2021, and the past few months may have guaranteed a future strike.

It has become clear during the negotiations for 2020 that the owners want a salary cap or some kind of revenue-sharing model. That is, and will remain, a nonstarter for the players. Especially if the owners refuse to fully open their books in negotiations. Given how strong their union is, it's unlikely the players will ever cave on that point.

The players were frustrated throughout negotiations for a 2020 start because the owners were claiming poverty after years of record revenues. Each of the owners' proposals was essentially for the same amount of money, just paid out differently depending on the number of games. The players were steadfast that they wanted full prorated salaries, given that they'd be doing the same job as a normal season, just for a different length of time.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has long been known for his negotiating ability, but man did he screw this up. From the jump he should have advised the owners to bite the bullet and take losses this year to secure the goodwill of the public. Instead, he was a cheerleader as they tried repeatedly to lowball the players. That wasn't smart and it may have done real, permanent damage to the league.

If owners had come out and said they were willing to take losses to ensure their players were taken care of, the sports world would have lauded them. And, incidentally, many would have looked upon them favorably during the next round of CBA negotiations. Now? They look like greedy billionaires acting like greedy billionaires.

A strike in 2021 has been forecast for a long time, but now it seems inevitable. For years owners have seen their revenues rise while payrolls have either flattened or dropped. Veteran players are being replaced rapidly by cheaper alternatives and the salaries for the middle-tier (where most players reside) have dropped. The players want that to change and won't get there without the threat of a work stoppage.

The negotiations over the 2020 MLB season were just a prelude for what's ahead. It's clear things are about to get very ugly for baseball.