Rob Manfred Gets Through Unusual MLB Season, But Challenges Remain
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is "hesitant to take a victory lap" after reaching the end of a regular season many believed would not be completed, and where there "should be praise, he deflected it toward players, team employees and MLB staffers," according to Dave Sheinin of the WASHINGTON POST. Manfred "now can acknowledge how dicey things got in the middle of the summer" with the outbreaks among the Marlins and Cardinals. Manfred said the season was "teetering" on the brink. He "wouldn't say how close he came to shutting down the season." But Manfred said when he called MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark, "I was very nervous that day." Meanwhile, Manfred said that he "plans to attend as much of the postseason as he normally would and hopes to preside over the Commissioner's Trophy presentation." Even before the pandemic, Manfred's popularity among fans "had taken significant hits over the previous year." Rule changes instituted for '20 "have drawn mixed reviews." And the "profound challenges facing Manfred and the sport won't end with the final out of the World Series." The industry "has taken a major financial hit this year without the income from ticket sales, parking and concessions, and many teams instituted layoffs and furloughs." Manfred said the "economic challenges in the coming years" will be "truly unprecedented." Manfred: "We’ll lose around $3 billion in cash this year. That’s a lot of money. We will come out with an additional $2 billion in debt, all of which needs to be serviced" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/28).
DUE CREDIT: MLB Network's Mark DeRosa said of the completed regular season, "Hats off to everyone involved, honestly. At the beginning, we didn't know. ... Hats off to all the players, kind of coming together for the betterment of the teammate next to them, going into quarantine, doing the right things and finding a way to get through this." MLB Network's Jon Heyman: "They've made a couple adjustments as they've gone along, and it's worked out fantastically. There were a couple of early outbreaks, there hasn’t been much lately. ... At the beginning of the year, I thought it was maybe 50/50 we were going to get through it, and they did it rather easily" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 9/27).
NOW THE REAL FUN BEGINS: The WASHINGTON POST's Sheinin in a separate piece wrote beginning tomorrow, MLB's shortest season "gives way to its largest playoffs ever: 16 teams, four rounds, a maximum of 65 games, the bulk of it contained within protective bubbles in Southern California and Texas." After surviving a global pandemic, a "chaotic sprint of a regular season and a teeming scramble of a postseason," this year's champion "will be worthy of the crown." And if anyone "wants to attach an asterisk, it shouldn't be to denote the 2020 title as something less than the rest but as something more" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/26).
TAKING EVERY PRECAUTION: In L.A., Jorge Castillo noted MLB last week mandated the Dodgers move into a hotel to "avoid a COVID-19 outbreak leading into the postseason." Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, "It's the best way to eliminate or minimize exposure. So I think that as far as us being on the one-yard line, getting to the postseason and getting through it, it's a responsible way to do it." Castillo noted the team "must stay in the hotel bubble through the end of the regular season and wild card round." Hotel security is to "ensure the bubble is maintained." As for coaching and support staff, Roberts said that the Dodgers "offered rooms in another hotel so family members could fulfill the mandatory seven-day quarantine to enter the bubble in Texas" (L.A. TIMES, 9/26).
HOLDING OUT HOPE: In Minneapolis, Phil Miller writes the possibility "still exists" that Twins fans "might get to attend Twins games this season." Twins President Dave St. Peter said the team plans to regard this week's wild-card round as a "bit of a test run." St. Peter: "We will have players' families and staff members' families in the ballpark for the playoffs. And in addition, we were able to invite our own (non-clubhouse-level) staff to come to the games. So there will be some fans. We're going to learn some things during the wild-card round (about) pod seating ... that will be to the benefit, over the long run, to returning fans en masse to this ballpark" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/28).