Rob Manfred: No MLB season until he's comfortable players and fans will be safe

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Despite discussions that centered around a Major League Baseball return in May, commissioner Rob Manfred says there is no rush to resume the 2020 season.

In an interview with Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on Tuesday, Manfred made it clear that baseball will not ramp up plans for a potential return until the public health situation has improved and he’s comfortable that players, employees and fans are not at risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

‘It’s a waiting game’

Here’s an excerpt from the interview focusing on MLB’s plan to be patient.

“The only real decision that we have made, the only real plan that we have is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation has improved to the point that we’re comfortable, that we can play games in a manner that’s safe for our players, our employees, our fans, and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely. So, right now, it’s largely a waiting game. During that period, as you might expect, any business will be engaged in contingency planning. We’ve thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios, but again, the key is the improvement in the public health situation.” 

Manfred’s comments come on the same day that Trump announced the baseball commissioner will be part of his committee to "reopen the country." The committee will include several other sports commissioners and owners.

Reading between the lines, Manfred doesn’t seem optimistic that a May return is realistic. In that scenario, players would have gathered again for a second spring training before opening the regular season in late June or early July. If the ramp-up period is pushed back any further, a completely lost season becomes far more realistic.

Based on Trump’s comments Tuesday, that wouldn’t sit too well with him.

‘We have lots of ideas’

Manfred also addressed discussions between the league and players union regarding potential locations and schedules that could be implemented, labeling them as ideas more so than actual plans or even contingency plans.

“We have a variety of contingency plans that we have talked about and worked on. Plans may be too strong of a word. Ideas may be a better word. All of them are designed to address limitations that may exist when businesses restart. Traveling limitations. Limitations on mass gatherings that may still exist. We thought about ways to try to make baseball available to all the fans across the United States in the face of those restrictions. From our perspective, we don’t have a plan, we have lots of ideas. What ideas come to fruition depends on what the restrictions are, what the public health situation is, but we are intent on the idea of trying to make baseball a part of the economic recovery and sort of a milestone on the return to normalcy.”

Talks last week centered around a potential isolated season that would be played out in empty spring training stadiums in Arizona and Florida.

The idea received significant push back from several players. Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler made the strongest point, stating he would not miss the birth of his first child to take part in an isolated season. Others simply do not want to leave their families behind amid a global pandemic.

Of course, there’s also a group of players that are just anxious to get back on the field, regardless of the circumstances.

It highlights just how unique and uncertain these times are, especially for sports. We don’t how or when any of the major sports will return, but perhaps we’ll start getting answers — like them or not — now that this committee has been formed.

Commissioner Rob Manfred is in no rush to resume the MLB season. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Commissioner Rob Manfred is in no rush to resume the MLB season. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

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