“Just a disaster for our game.”

Those were the words of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday evening as he spoke to ESPN’s Mike Greenberg.

Yes, commissioner. It has been a disaster, and you and the owners are continuing to make it even worse. MLB has become the laughing stock of sports recently.

I’m going to admit being wrong before I go any further. When I started writing about the MLB negotiation debacle, I blamed the players more than the owners. I blamed both sides but really went in on the players. As this has played out right in front of our eyes, I am here to say I was wrong.

The billionaire owners and Manfred have botched this thing from the start. The owners thought they could bluff their way through the negotiations and the player’s association would bite and take one of their preposterous deals. However, the players have called their bluff, and we have hit a critical impasse.

If you enjoy the game of baseball, make sure you get out to your local Dixie Youth league this summer and check out the future of the sport because you probably will not see professionals on the field.

To save you the boring numbers, I will just bring anyone up to speed who hasn’t been paying attention: the owners and players have gone back and forth for weeks with proposal after proposal. Each side rejects the other proposal, and they start over again. The players still want their full-prorated salaries along with a season that extends to at least 70-80 games. Each of the proposals by the owners did not guarantee the full-prorated salaries, and each one had cuts that were all the same; they just looked different because of the amount of games they were guaranteeing.

Just last week Manfred was quoted saying he was “100%” sure there would be baseball played this season. Then on Monday, he walked back that statement saying “I’m not confident” that there will be baseball this year.

Why the sudden change? A billion-dollar grievance by the players hangs in the balance. Manfred has the ability to implement a season even without both sides agreeing to a deal. The season that has been floated would be a much shorter one — around 50 games to be exact — and the financial loss by the players in that situation would in turn have them file a grievance.

Manfred knows the players have a case, and the players are daring him to make them return to the field. That is why Manfred walked back his statements from last week. He was hopeful the players would go along with the proposals by the owners that strips them of a good portion of their pay, for some close to half of their salaries.

Right now, as I write this column, the chance of a season is grave. The players called the bluff and now the owners will either have to pay the players their full-prorated salaries with the number of games the players are asking for or risk losing the season and along with it the many fans that will leave.

If the season is canceled, baseball will not be played for 18 straight months when it returns next spring. That will cause irreparable damage to the game and not to mention the collective bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 1, 2021. Do we really think the two sides can come to an agreement next year with the way things have gone the last couple of months?

Not only could baseball be lost this year, but after next season there could be another work stoppage if the owners and players cannot get on the same page soon.

The owners need to get out of their billionaire bubble. Pay the players their full-prorated salaries as promised in March, play at least 70-80 games so the players aren’t shorted the money from those prorated salaries and let’s get the players back on the field.

It sounds simple enough, but as we have seen here lately nothing is simple when it comes to this situation.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV