MLB commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t optimistic about 162-game season

On the eve of what would have been Major League Baseball’s opening day, commissioner Rob Manfred indicated that the league is “probably not gonna be able to” play a full, 162-game regular season.

“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 in an interview Wednesday night on ESPN’s “SportsCenter With Scott Van Pelt,” adding: “But the one thing I know for sure is baseball will be back. Whenever it’s safe to play, we’ll be back. … We will be part of the recovery, the healing in this country from this particular pandemic.”

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An executive with knowledge of the negotiations told USA TODAY Sports that MLB and the players union are close to reaching an agreement on critical economic issues with hopes of salvaging the majority of the 162-game season, even if it means playing regular doubleheaders and the World Series in late November.

All of this, of course, is contingent on the dissipation of the novel coronavirus in a time frame that would realistically allow for a lengthy season. 

“I also think that we need to be creative in terms of what the schedule looks like, what the postseason format looks like,” Manfred said in the ESPN interview. “Nothing is off the table for us right now. … There’s a lot of ideas out there and we are open to all of them.”

On Wednesday, powerhouse agent Scott Boras suggested a plan to play as close to a 162-game schedule as possible, a full version of the playoffs with a neutral-site World Series culminating around Christmas.

MLB’s best hope is to start the season around June 1, and no later than July 1, but are following the lead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On March 15, the CDC recommended against gatherings of 50 or more people “for the next eight weeks.” 

Manfred also told ESPN that the investigation into the Boston Red Sox’s sign-stealing is “done,” but he has not had time to write up a report. The commissioner plans to release a report before play resumes.

MLB’s opening day was originally scheduled for Thursday until the season was indefinitely postponed on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This happened a day after the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus setting off a cavalcade of sports postponements and cancellations. Previously scheduled games in Major League Soccer and the NHL also were postponed, and the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments were canceled.

Contributing: Bob Nightengale.

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