Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred may have disappointed those who showed up for the Ricketts family’s celebration of itself on Thursday expecting Manfred’s presence to signal a major announcement involving the Cubs.
But on his way out of the event at Wrigley Field, he did sound like he expects to have a new labor agreement negotiated by the end of the year, seemed to be keeping Wrigley at the front of mind for an All-Star game and confirmed NBC Sports Chicago’s report earlier in the week that the Cubs and Reds will play in next year’s Field of Dreams game at Dyersville, Iowa, on Aug. 11.
“We’ve got some details that still need to work out,” Manfred said of the Iowa game during a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago and the Chicago Tribune. “But, yeah, it’s going to be Cubs-Reds, and we’re going to do it again.”
As for CBA talks that reportedly included on Monday the first in-person talks between the union and MLB toward the next agreement, Manfred would not comment on details of talks so far or specific objectives.
That included a question about whether he expects enough change in the next agreement to effectively disincentive tanking — the method the Cubs perfected to help build their 2016 champion and that some fear could be in play again now.
He declined to answer that and then got into the SUV limo waiting for him.
But before that he offered a hopeful take on a timely resolution of CBA talks — during a season in which others from both sides of the table have suggested the game is in for a contentious, protracted process.
“My view of the world is that the owners are 100 percent committed to having an agreement at or about the deadline of Dec. 1,” said Manfred, who was baseball’s top labor executive before becoming commissioner, and its lead labor counsel before that — dating to the 1994-95 stoppage.
“And I’m optimistic that we’re going to be able to deliver on that commitment.”
The current CBA expires on Dec. 1.
Thursday’s event celebrating what Cubs business president Crane Kenney called ownership’s “heroic” spending to restore and renovate Wrigley Field was the natural backdrop for a renewed questions about when the Cubs will host their first All-Star game since 1990.
For years before the extensive renovation project, lack of upgrades at Wrigley were the most common reasons given for passing on Wrigley for a midsummer classic.
And Manfred’s attendance at Thursday’s event inspired some media to show up only because of what seemed like the plausible chance he might have a related announcement to make. They had to settle for an open bar.
“We’ve got a lot of demand for All-Star games,” said Manfred, who made the bold and controversial move to pull this year’s game out of Atlanta over the passage of a voter-suppression law and move it to Colorado.
“I think you need a really good city-club partnership,” he said. “I have every confidence that the Cubs can make that kind of partnership. And we’d love to be here. It’s just a question of where they fall in line.”
Next year’s All-Star game is at Dodger Stadium, and the 2026 game has been scheduled for Philadelphia, with the three in between yet to be announced.
Despite the longstanding tradition until recent years of games alternating between American League and National League cities, Manfred said all those NL venues lined up from this year through ’26 have no bearing on the decision.
“I don’t worry about that anymore,” he said. “We’re so far off rotation that I just don’t really worry about it.”