Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Monday he is "not confident" a 2020 season will happen now that the players' union broke off talks about a return-to-play plan.
Manfred's comments, made during an appearance on ESPN's 'The Return of Sports' special, are a dramatic shift in tone given just last week he pegged the likelihood of a 2020 season as "100 per cent."
"I'm not confident," Manfred said when asked if there would be a season. "I think there's real risk; and as long as there's no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue."
The comments drew a fiery reaction from MLB players association executive director Tony Clark, who said players are "disgusted" by Manfred's stance.
Manfred blamed what he termed as the players union's "decision to end good-faith negotiations" and the need for the sides to agree on health protocols.
"The owners are a hundred per cent committed to getting baseball back on the field," Manfred said.
"Unfortunately, I can't tell you that I'm a hundred per cent certain that's going to happen... It's just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it."
Clark responded on the union's Twitter feed and claimed the league has been acting in "bad faith" and was intent on "extracting additional pay cuts from players".
Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told players and fans that there would '100%' be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back and his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season," Clark said.
"Any implication that the Players Association has somehow delayed progress on health and safety protocols is completely false... "
In addition, it has been reported that MLB sent a letter to the union on Monday, stating that the season would not be held unless the players waived all legal claims against management.
Team owners and the players union have gone back and forth exchanging plans for a partial season, with the sticking points being the percentage of pro-rated player salaries and the number of games played.
On Saturday, the union rejected MLB's latest offer, opted not to counter and said further talks with the league would be futile. MLB was scheduled to open its 162-game regular season in late March but delayed the campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.