Rob Manfred Says MLB Must 'Turn over Every Stone' in Effort to Play 2020 Season

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2020

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during MLB baseball owners meetings, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is far from ready to give up on holding some version of a 2020 season.  

"I think it's incumbent upon us to turn over every stone to try to play the game in 2020 if there's any way we can in the environment," he said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).

While he pointed out the league will explore different possibilities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he also said sports need to wait until there is more information available to make a final decision.

"We have tried to be cautious about trying to go too soon, based on what the public health situation is," Manfred said. "For people to be out there saying we're not going to have any sports in 2020, I think that's going the other way. I think we all need, no matter what your predilection is, to wait for the situation to unfold more, give us more information and then make realistic decisions about what's possible."

The AP noted the league has explored using spring training parks, Chase Field and college facilities near Phoenix and basing all its teams in the area. In such a scenario, there would be no fans in the stadiums, and players and those needed to broadcast the games would be kept in controlled environments such as hotels.

"My job is to figure out the best possible way to play baseball when we know more about the surrounding environment," Manfred said while acknowledging there will be necessary discussions with the players' union and executive director Tony Clark. "We're going to have to go to Tony, and it's his job to figure out what the players want to do."

The commissioner said approximately 40 percent of the league's operating revenues come from the money holding games in front of fans generates, so an agreement would need to be reached regarding salaries during the altered season.

Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported the league and players' union have not discussed the Arizona proposal since April 6, although both sides have talked about it with medical experts.

There are a number of obstacles that would need to be overcome, including players displaying a willingness to sequester themselves in hotels for an extended period of time and whether there will be widespread testing available.

Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Good Luck America's Peter Hamby that playing games without fans present could be one way to restart sports.

"Nobody comes to the stadium," Fauci said. "Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. Have them tested every week, and make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out."

The Arizona plan is not the only one that has been discussed. 

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the league explored a plan in which the six divisions would be realigned for the 2020 campaign and teams would play in their respective spring training homes in Florida and Arizona.