MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on the Postseason: "We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas"

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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on the Postseason: “We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas”

Chicago Cubs

Speaking today with USA Today, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the successes in getting through this pandemic season, the rule changes that worked out this year, and the postseason structure, among other things.

Of particular note in Manfred’s comments, he clarified some earlier talking points on this year’s expanded postseason, and his/the owners’ desire to see the expanded postseason continue after this year

“Look, 16 teams, was a really good solution for the unique environment we had in 2020,” Manfred told USA Today. “But I want to be clear, when I talked about the expanded playoffs going forward before COVID ever hit, we never talked about 16 teams as a permanent solution. We never talked about more than 14 teams. Those plans addressed marginalizing the value of winning the division, and preserving the competitiveness through the regular season. The expanded playoffs cover a vast waterfront, but what we discussed was a very different format than we’re seeing now.”

We’ve talked about what an ugly situation 16 teams in the postseason could be if it came after a normal, 162-game season, so I’m very glad to hear this clarification from Manfred. The normal structure has just 10 of 30 teams make the playoffs in MLB, the lowest percentage in sports. Increasing that number to improve the competitive landscape over a full season (i.e., reduce tanking), but while still making it worthwhile for teams to try to improve at the top of the spectrum, is a good thing in my book. You’ve just gotta balance it right.

Speaking of the postseason, Manfred confirmed that MLB still desires to have fans at some of the later-round playoff games, including the World Series in Texas: “We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas. One of the most important things to our game is the presence of fans. Starting down the path of having fans in stadiums, and in a safe and risk-free environment, is very, very important to our game.” An announcement on ticket sales could come soon.

I’ve got mixed feelings on this, because, on the one hand, it’s not inconceivable that socially-distanced fans in wide-open venue (ideally with outdoor ventilation) could be as safe at a limited-capacity baseball game as doing any other activity right now. And it would be pretty cool to have fans back at games. On the other hand, it’s hard to feel like we know what the future – even just a month from now – can look like. As it has throughout this season, MLB will need to remain very flexible, and willing to pull the plug if it’s not absolutely certain the plan for fans can be safe.

(Having accurate rapid tests available in wide supply – possible by late October – would certainly help. I actually think about that topic a lot when it comes to having fans at games next year. Temperature screenings are a component of things, but what if you could just straight up test everyone who wants to come to the ballpark? That would not only help keep people safer, but it also might provide fans the additional confidence necessary to actually go back to games.)

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.