In a memorandum issued to baseball operations employees around the game, commissioner Rob Manfred stated that he “fully anticipate[s] baseball will return this season,” per a report from Jeff Passan of ESPN.com.
The message was delivered alongside less optimistic news: while already expected, the league has officially suspended the contracts of uniformed non-player employees and other baseball ops staffers. Many clubs have nevertheless promised salaries through at least the end of May, though not all have done so.
Manfred also acknowledged that it’s “very difficult to predict with any accuracy the timeline for resumption of our season.” The persistent message from the league and from public health officials largely remains the same: the course of the disease and broader public response and needs will largely dictate what’s possible for baseball.
It’s still notable to hear such relatively hopeful messaging from the commissioner. The league has continued to gin up potential scenarios for getting the 2020 campaign underway. The latest is a three-state possibility.
Like most of the ideas floated to this point, the latest concept would focus on delivering games on television but without spectators on hand. But it’s not yet clear that MLB is giving up entirely on hosting fans at contests at some point in 2020.
In a chat with Jack Curry of YES Network (Twitter link), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci contemplated a scenario in which there could possibly be some in-person attendance in 2020. Labeling in-person attendance “conceivable,” Fauci nevertheless cautioned that it’s likelier the game will only return to our screens in the near-term. Ultimately, he said, “it’s gonna be the virus that determines what the timetable is.”
It’s still largely speculative at this point, but a paying gate would certainly help the league deal with some of the thorniest issues it faces. A full-throated disagreement blossomed yesterday between the league and union over player salaries in a no-fan scenario. And legal action is brewing over the lack of refunds for 2020 tickets.