MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday that baseball, which is dark because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, will be back “whenever it’s safe to play.” He gave clues as to when he’d like for that to happen.
Manfred also offered hints about a reworked 2020 schedule while speaking from Florida with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on “SportsCenter.” He was understandably short on specifics, but he offered enough for others to tease out three key points:
The season might begin in late spring.
“My optimistic outlook is that at some point in May we’ll be gearing back up. We’ll have to make a determination, depending on what the precise date is, as to how much of a preparation period we need,” Manfred said on the night before the season was to begin.
A four-week second spring training in May would mean a June opening, which is what ESPN reported earlier Wednesday was being discussed among team owners and the MLB Players Association.
Teams won’t play 162 games.
“The goal would be to get as many regular-season games as possible and think creatively about how we can accomplish that goal,” he said.
If play were to begin in June, then there would be close to 80 games remaining until the scheduled Sept. 27 end of the regular season. The talk about creative thinking adds credence to speculation that MLB will add days to the season and push the playoffs into November or December. Postseason games could then be played in warm-weather or domed neutral sites.
This year’s schedule might get wild.
“(W)e’ve had some really positive conversations with our players association about relaxing some of the rules that govern our schedule. They’re very focused on returning to play and playing as many games as possible. And when you have that kind of positive dialogue, it creates an opportunity to do things that are a little different,” Manfred said.
That tracks with recent reports that players are on board with playing doubleheaders to make up postponed games and get as close as possible to 162. Manfred did not reject a suggestion by Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins that MLB doubleheaders this year be two seven-inning games, which is how they’re normally played in the minor leagues.