Could the entire MLB be season be in danger?
MLB would "have to accept that as a reality" if health experts did not deem the coronavirus pandemic contained enough for the baseball season to start, commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday night.
"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."— ESPN (@espn) March 26, 2020
—@MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to @notthefakeSVP pic.twitter.com/nEGAXwOTLt
"I think that if in fact the situation with respect to the virus is such that it's not safe to resume play," Manfred told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt on "Sportscenter" on Wednesday night, "whether it's in alternate sites, empty stadiums, whatever it is, we have to accept that as a reality. It would be a tremendous hardship (to cancel the season). It would be a hardship for our fans, it'd be a hardship for our players and, frankly, it'd be a huge economic hardship for our owners.
"It would be a real tragedy, but the one thing I know for sure is baseball will be back. Whenever it's safe to play, we'll be back. Our fans will be back, our players will be back and we will be part of the recovery, healing in this country from this particular pandemic."
Opening Day was supposed to occur Thursday, but MLB most recently pushed back the start of the season until at least mid-May following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention barring gatherings of 50-plus people. Numerous local and state governments, including California, have issued shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders since then in an effort to halt the coronavirus' spread and limit the impact on hospitals and public health systems.
COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to climb, with NBC News reporting confirming over 54,000 nationwide. Manfred said Wednesday he hoped for a regular season with a "credible" number of games, but MLB will first need approval to start the 2020 season before determining its length.
"Obviously our fans love a 162-game season and the postseason format that we have," Manfred told Van Pelt. "We're probably not gonna be able to do that this year. I think that's clear, and it does give us an opportunity to do some different things, to experiment and to make sure that we provide as many games as possible and as entertaining a product as possible."
Manfred said MLB wants to play as many games as possible this season, while also considering "the limitations associated with the public-health concerns."
The decision on the season's length, then, largely is out of baseball's hands.