Boston Red Sox

Feb 17, 2019; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred addresses representatives from the grapefruit league during the annual spring training media day at Hilton in West Palm Beach. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

If you’re tired of the tennis, you’re not alone. The owners made a proposal. The players made a counter. Each side claims that the other’s wasn’t a real offer at all. Meanwhile, sand streams through the hourglass and baseball rots.

Which is why it’s time for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to blow the whistle, make the rules and then sanitize his hands.

In case you missed it, the baseball players union sent a proposal to MLB owners yesterday for an 89-game regular season that would extend into mid-October, a curious offer from a group that was once using player safety as leverage. (Public health officials have all but unanimously agreed that a second wave of COVID-19 is a virtual certainty in the fall.) Meanwhile, players haven’t budged on their demand to be paid fully for each game they play, which is both unrealistic and disingenuous given what we know about the agreement between owners and players in March.

Maybe it’s just me, but it sure feels like the players are daring commissioner Rob Manfred to unilaterally impose a 50-game(ish) season, which is why Manfred now needs to do one thing and one thing only.

Do it.

Look, I’m no genius here, but actions speak louder than words. When Manfred wanted to aggressively pursue pace-of-play initiatives, the union stood in his way. MLB allies then told us that Manfred had the power to unilaterally impose a pitch clock, but he never used that power. Now the union is threatening Manfred to unilaterally impose a 50-game schedule, presumably because players association (union) officials think he won’t do that, either.

Translation: they don’t think Manfred wants to be the bad guy. And they may be right. Manfred has long built a reputation as a deal maker, which is hardly a criticism. With him as a primary factor over the last quarter century, baseball has had labor peace. The problem is that the union knows Manfred has a history of making deals, so they’re now using his nature against him.

So what is the commish to do? Call the union’s bluff. Put it on the players to show up and play 50 games. Baseball has already lost a ton of money and, worse, mountains of dignity, and if the season isn’t already due an asterisk, it’s because it’s due two.

And so, if it’s a fight the union wants, give `em a fight.

Deep down, it’s the last thing a bully really wants to do.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.