In an appearance on CNN, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred expressed optimism regarding the prospects for a 2020 season. The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler is among those tweeting quotes from the interview; CNN’s Anderson Cooper has shared some video via Twitter.
Though he’s hopeful of baseball being played this summer, Manfred made clear the thinking involves spectator-free contests. Anything more would be unexpected at this point. The focus, clearly, is just on getting some reasonable product off of the ground.
Manfred also warned of the dire consequences to the economic health of the game if the campaign doesn’t work out. He said losses to the thirty teams could “approach” a remarkable $4B if 2020 is shelved entirely. Obviously, it’s not clear from a brief interview precisely what is and isn’t baked into that number.
Among many other hurdles, of course, is the matter of sorting things out with the players. Manfred expressed “great confidence” that the sides will ultimately see eye to eye, “both that it’s safe to come back to work and work out the economic issues that need to be resolved.”
MLB will not “force” any individual player to suit up, Manfred said. (How that decision would be free from disincentives is another question.) But he expects that won’t be a significant issue. “We hope that we will be able to convince the vast, vast majority of our players that it’s safe to return,” says Manfred.
Planning for the safety of players and others involved in putting on contests will obviously be critical. There’s certainly a strain of opinion that doesn’t see it as a truly achievable goal under the circumstances.
Manfred promoted the testing and tracing plan that was reported earlier today. Critically, the league does not plan to suspend play if a player (or, presumably, other employee) tests positive. Instead, it would keep that player isolated and away from the playing field until he has received two negative tests — presuming he’s able to recover — while also testing all those that had been in close contact to the player.
That’s a far less restrictive approach than that maintained by the Korea Baseball Organization, which says it will shut down for three weeks if any player tests positive. Thankfully, Korea’s top league hasn’t had to do so just yet. And Taiwan’s CPBL has even progressed to the point where limited live fans are attending games. Of course, those leagues are operating against the backdrop of societies that have had much more success at gaining control over the spread of the coronavirus.