In an interview this morning, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred discussed the enormously complex question of how and when the league can resume play. As Ryan Gaydos of FOX Business reports, the top baseball official expressed a strong commitment to the primacy of public health considerations.
In many ways, the interview represents an acknowledgement of undeniable facts. But it’s good to hear the commissioner address this worrisome situation in a realistic and reasonable manner.
Manfred emphasized that MLB has made only one real decision to this point: “that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation is improved to the point that we’re comfortable that we can play games in a manner that is safe for our players, our employees, our fans and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely.”
That last point is a key one. Even if it’s possible to stage games in a manner that isn’t a threat to participants, that might require a major allocation of resources (private and public) to accomplish. There are obviously higher needs that must first be met.
As we’ve discussed at length in recent weeks, any resumption of play is sure to require complicated logistics and come with the threat of interruption. Ensuring that the above-noted conditions are met before attempting a season will surely reduce the risk for negative outcomes.
It’s also undeniably important to do as much legwork as possible now to prepare for a potential return to action. Unfortunately, as Manfred says, “it’s largely a waiting game.” But the league has “engaged in contingency planning” and “thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios.”
[RELATED: Watch our recent video on why MLB is right to keep working on plans for a 2020 season.]
Ultimately, getting back to action will require creativity, flexibility, and preparation. It’ll also involve waiting to see what is achievable as a fast-moving, highly uncertain situation unfolds before all our eyes.
Accordingly, per Manfred, the league doesn’t “have a plan” so much as “lots of ideas.” He went on:
What ideas come to fruition will depend on what the restrictions are, what the public health situation is. But we are intent on the idea of trying to make baseball part of the recovery – the economic recovery – and sort of a milestone on the return of normalcy.
Innumerable considerations will ultimately shape the outcome. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic discussed the behind-the-scenes activity today (subscription link), including the many logistical factors at play. Jeff Passan of ESPN.com (audio link via Twitter) suggests that the primary importance of TV-viewing (at least initially) could drive the league to innovate in that area.