Rob Manfred Says 2020 MLB Season Will Continue Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 1, 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

The 2020 Major League Baseball season will move forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted multiple teams.

Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to ESPN's Karl Ravech on Saturday about continuing the season: "We are playing. The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general, and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable."

Jon Heyman of MLB Network then reported "there was an MLB owners call yesterday about the COVID crisis, and there's a strong commitment from Manfred (and owners) to keeping health the priority but also to make this season work—and to play as close to 60 games as possible."

ESPN's Jeff Passan wrote Friday that Manfred warned MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark that he could shut down the season "if the sport doesn't do a better job of managing the coronavirus."

Passan noted "multiple players" who were briefed on Clark's call with Manfred feared "the season could be shut down as soon as Monday if positive tests jump or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league's protocols."

From the start of the regular season, MLB has been in a precarious position, as it was revealed hours before the first game July 23 that Washington Nationals star Juan Soto had tested positive for the coronavirus and would not play against the New York Yankees.

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Things have only got worse for the sport. The Miami Marlins have had 21 members of the organization test positive for the virus. MLB postponed all Marlins games from Monday through Sunday as a result of that outbreak.

The Philadelphia Phillies, the Marlins' season-opening series opponents, announced two staff members tested positive for COVID-19, prompting MLB to postpone their scheduled series against the New York Yankees (Monday-Tuesday and Wednesday-Thursday) and Toronto Blue Jays (Friday-Sunday).

Passan reported Saturday the Phillies were "optimistic" those test results were false positives.

After the Marlins' outbreak, Passan reported MLB would require every team to travel with a compliance officer who could monitor players to ensure they were following league-mandated health and safety protocols.

On Friday, the St. Louis Cardinals announced two of their players tested positive, and MLB postponed their game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Athletic's Mark Saxon reported Saturday the Cardinals had four new positive test results, including three staff members and one player. Heyman reported Saturday's game between St. Louis and Milwaukee was postponed.

The regular season was scheduled to begin March 26, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the sport to shut down during spring training.

When owners and players tried coming together to adopt a plan to play a shortened season, the results were less than ideal.

They did agree to a deal in March that guaranteed prorated salaries if games were played and provided players $170 million in advance pay, among other key items that seemed to pave the way for the two sides.

Instead, they exchanged no fewer than eight proposals for a schedule with owners refusing to pay players for more than 60 games and routinely offering less than fully prorated pay.

Manfred then implemented a 60-game schedule, but there have been additional changes.

On the first day of the regular season, owners and players agreed to an expanded postseason format for 2020 with 16 teams.

As the number of coronavirus cases rose and the schedule continued to be altered, the league and union agreed doubleheaders would consist of seven-inning games.

In the meantime, Manfred has made his position clear that he wants to play out the schedule.

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