Major League Baseball was supposed to launch its regular season on Thursday. Alas, Opening Day will be delayed until later in the year due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. When (or if) the 2020 season will begin is anyone's guess, including commissioner Rob Manfred's.
Manfred marked the occasion on Wednesday night by joining ESPN's "SportsCenter." During an interview with Scott Van Pelt, Manfred provided insight into his and the league's thinking about when the season could start and what it will entail when (or if) it does.
Though Manfred made no promises, he said that his hope is teams can restart training camps sometime in May., that would put everyone on schedule to begin the season in early June, or the same timetable . Whether or not that proves feasible hinges on the effectiveness of the various containment strategies imposed across the country in recent weeks.
What the season looks like is a tertiary concern, behind when and if it will happen, but Manfred said that "nothing is off the table for us," a comment that indicates baseball is open to radical ideas, including a schedule overhaul that would see teams play a number of doubleheaders in order to fatten the season. The league could also decide to shift all postseason games to a neutral site, likely a domed stadium or one located in a warm-weather state, if the decision is made to extend regular season play into October and postseason play into November.
Manfred even appeared open-minded about Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins' idea, to shorten games to seven innings, saying that while he's always felt baseball games should remain nine innings, he never expressed that sentiment while "thinking about this particular crisis."
The most predictable part of Manfred's interview was his vow that baseball will return and serve as a distraction for the country. "The one thing I know for sure is baseball will be back," he said. "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, the healing in this country, from this particular pandemic."