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Manfred: We’ll be playing baseball this summer and fall

Major League BaseballAfter an exchange of proposals to launch the 2020 season that saw MLB and MLBPA inch closer to a resolution, Commissioner Rob Manfred vows there will be play this season, with a 50-game season a last resort.

Speaking yesterday before the five-round MLB amateur draft, Manfred made a vow that he’s actually in a position to implement. The last proposal from the players union called for an 89-game regular season ending on Oct. 11 and putting the World Series in November, with full prorated salaries. The latest offers from MLB call for a shorter season ending on Sept. 27 and limiting the playoffs to October, avoiding a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases, bad fall weather and more competition in the sports-marketing world.

Manfred does have an ace up his sleeve: he and MLB owners believe that a 50-game season would appear to conform to a March agreement between players and owners that called for no salary cuts this season, and that Manfred has the power to implement that season without a final agreement with players after MLB has made good-faith efforts to launch the 2020 campaign. Whether or not the players go along with that deal or file a labor grievance remains to be seen, and Manfred looks to be working on a final deal with the union before unilaterally calling for play. From the New York Post:

“We’re going to play baseball in 2020. One-hundred percent” Manfred told the MLB Network’s Tom Verducci, shortly before baseball’s annual amateur draft. “If it has to be under the March 26 agreement, if we get to that point in the calendar, so be it. But one way or the other, we’re playing Major League Baseball.”…

Asked why an 89-game season isn’t realistic, Manfred said, “The primary reason is our medical experts are telling us we should be finishing earlier, not later, because of the risk of a second wave of the pandemic. I think you also have to take the logistics into account. We have commitments to our broadcast partners to provide content at particular points in the calendar, and just up and deciding we’re going to provide it two weeks later is problematic.”

Manfred added: “I don’t want to be responsible for the additional health risk with going later in the fall. The risk to not completing the season. The disaster that that would be. I think the most prudent course for everyone is to follow the advice of the experts on this one.” Notably, coronavirus numbers are currently spiking in important baseball states like Arizona, California and Texas.

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