In psychology there is a theory that attempts to explain an underlying bias based on the over reliance of a certain tool. This concept is often and easily represented by the saying, “when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail”. From everything I have seen and read about Rob Manfred it is completely possible that he has adopted this train of thought as his life’s mantra, as it seems like he treats every situation exactly the same; his opinions and ideas are the only ones that matter. Fortunately for him, as well as his bosses, thus far he has been correct in this assumption, which has truly been unfortunate for the rest of us.
To this point Manfred and the owners that he represents have been getting roasted by players, fans and media members alike for taking advantage of a global pandemic to try to mitigate their losses, put some of the financial and health risk for that matter on the players, get some of plans for the future of Major and Minor League Baseball pushed through and gain some theoretical footing over the MLBA toward the upcoming CBA showdown. Sure some members of the media have continued to carry water for the owners in this situation, but that number is getting smaller by the day; especially as some of their colleagues are losing their jobs with minimal sports to cover. Day by day the court of public opinion is swaying further and further toward the position and plight of the players. The pressure should weigh more heavily on the owners, but it does not because they have held the upper hand in these negotiations since the first agreement was reached on March 26th and Manfred knows it.
In spite of the fact that on the surface it looked like the concessions by each side were fairly even and the respective factions had covered the major sticking points to an agreement for a season, one major stipulation had been overlooked or wasn’t given its full potential gravity. In this case it may not be what everyone is probably thinking of because what is on our minds has taken over our daily lives. The precondition that could ultimately bring all of these good faith negotiations to an end may not be the global pandemic, COVID-19, that brought this all about in the first place. It will more than likely be the power that was given to Manfred to make some decisions on his own, without much or any ability to stop him.
During the original agreement players agreed to a prorated salary based on the number of games being played because at that point it was almost certain that a 162 game season was pretty much out the window. However, it seemed that in everyone’s mind at the time that this would just be a tiny bump in the road and things would be back business as usual in no time at all. We all remember statements about Opening Day being pushed back by a two week delay. Now here we sit over two months later and more than a couple of weeks into a battle between the MLB and the MLBPA; raging both behind closed doors and through multiple media leaks. Some may say we are no closer to having baseball than when it was shut down on March 12th, as I was walking around LECOM Park. Based on the current stalemate that is going on, I might tend to agree; if I didn’t remember what type of person Rob Manfred is. He has a hammer and he sees the nail.
Based on everything I have read on the subject Manfred has the option to implement a season of 50 games, while paying players their full pro rated salaries because ultimately this was what the MLBPA agreed to back in March. The Commissioner has the right to make the schedule and ultimately decide the number of games that can be safely played in today’s environment, as long as there are no bans on mass gatherings, no travel restrictions are still in place and medical experts deem it safe to play games without risk to teams or fans. Currently, as restrictions are being lifted across the country these conditions could potentially be less of a hold up than originally thought. So, what is left to stop Manfred from moving forward with any season that he deems fit? Right now there is really nothing anyone can do because once he decides to bring the hammer down, we all become the nail.