Red Sox

McAdam: Just when it seemed like baseball was poised to return, it goes sideways again

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse .... baseball!

Just when you thought you had exhausted all of your anger, your disgust and your contempt. Just when you finally determined baseball had dug down so deep they couldn't possibly go any lower, you discovered otherwise Monday.

Only five days after commissioner Rob Manfred vowed "100 percent'' that "we're playing baseball in 2020,'' Manfred took a mulligan late Monday afternoon.

Asked by ESPN whether he was sure that the game would get back on the field this year, Manfred: "Unfortunately, I can't tell you that I'm 100 percent certain that's going to happen.''

One hundred percent sure last Wednesday, just before the annual amateur draft. Not 100 percent certain less than a week later.

What in the name of Marvin Miller is going on here?

Over the weekend, the Players Association had come to the reasonable conclusion that Manfred -- on behalf of the owners -- was simply trying to play out the clock. One proposal after another was offered, but each one sounded suspiciously the same. Each one, regardless of the length of schedule and formula utilized, resulted in owners paying out the same $1.4 billion total in player salaries.

The owners were in position to wait out the Players Association, since it was always in their best interest to have a shorter regular season -- the better to minimize their losses. And the owners had an important card up their sleeve -- a codicil in the March agreement with the players which permitted Manfred to implement ("impose'' is a more accurate term) a schedule of their own, so long as good faith bargaining attempts had been thoroughly explored and the players could be guaranteed their pro-rated salaries.

Since it was always clear that MLB wished for a shorter schedule, followed by a far more profitable postseason, the owners had been merely running out of the clock in recent weeks, waiting until such a time that a two-month season was all that was left to implement.

Sensing that, the union sent a letter to MLB Saturday night, which, roughly translated, said: "We know what you're up to. Let's get this over with.''

But even that wasn't enough for MLB. On a conference call with owners Monday,