Promising that "baseball will be back" and "will be part of the recovery," Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in an interview Wednesday with ESPN's Scott Van Pelt at SportsCenter that "nothing is wrong" , as the sport describes its return plan for a coronavirus-related delay.
Manfred, speaking from Florida on the eve of what would be the opening day, said he was hopeful that the sport could start preparing for a season sometime in May, but that the league would work with infectious disease specialists before determining its status. exact return.
"The only thing I'm sure of is that baseball will be back," said Manfred. "Whenever it is safe to play, we will be back. Our fans will be back. Our players will be back. And we will be part of the recovery, the healing in this country, this particular pandemic."
"Look, my optimistic view is that, sometime in May, we will be recovering," he added. "We will have to determine, depending on what the exact date is, how much of a preparation period we need, whether that preparation period will take place in the club's host cities or in Florida and Arizona. Again, I think the goal would be get as many games as possible from the regular season and think creatively about how we can achieve that goal. "
For nearly two weeks, when the MLB and the MLB Players' Association exchanged proposals on issues of pay and length of service, the parties also discussed the correct way to return – the time, the location and the fashion. Manfred told Van Pelt "we probably won't make it" a season of 162 games – "I think it's clear," he said. What the MLB can do, said Manfred, is to "experiment" and "make sure we deliver as many games as possible and the most fun product possible."
Baseball can lose billions of dollars in revenue if it misses a significant amount of the season, prompting teams and players to come together in the desire to return as quickly as possible.
"Nothing is off the table for us now," said Manfred. "I think we are open and we have had some really positive conversations with the players association about relaxing some of the rules that govern our schedule. They are very focused on getting back to playing and playing as many games as possible. And when you have this kind of positive dialogue, it creates an opportunity to do things a little bit different. You are not committed to them in the long run, because this year is a unique circumstance. But there are many ideas out there, and we are really open to them all. "
The ideas, said Manfred, include an increase in the number of headings – and he has not ruled out the seven-shift variety, although players may object, as this will further reduce their statistical output.
"I said publicly before that there are some numbers in baseball that you can't change. Nine times is one of them," said Manfred. "When I said that, I wasn't thinking about this particular crisis. So, I'm sure it's something that will have some discussion."
Other possibilities, sources said, include a World Series in a neutral location – to allow the regular season to run until October and the championship series to be held in a city with a hot climate – and an expanded playoff system.
The fact that Manfred negotiated an agreement with the players, a proposal to pay minor league players and ensure that the owners do not make cost-cutting moves until May, prevented him from making a very early decision on claims that the Boston Red Sox illegally stole signs during the 2018 championship winning season.
"We finished the investigation," said Manfred. "There was a delay in terms of producing a written report, just because, frankly, I didn't have time to address it with the other problems. But we will publish a report from Boston before we resume the play."
Resume and resume at the right time, in the right place, with the right number of fans – which can be zero – is among the most difficult tasks to design. But Manfred sees baseball as having a bigger impact, which simply makes playing games of great importance to the league and the players.
"I think it will mark a real milestone in returning to normal," said Manfred. "I think you saw him after 9/11, in terms of resuming the game. I was there at Shea Stadium that night when we started playing. It was one of the most memorable games I've ever played. It's an honor for us. " sport to be considered in a way that we were part of our country returning from some terrible events, and we hope to be able to play a similar role in relation to this ".