Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly had a meeting with the Players’ Association on Friday where he told its president, Tony Clark, that the baseball season could be on the verge of shutting down for good.
ESPN‘s Jeff Passan wrote that Manfred gave an ultimatum to Clark and said that people are going to have to change the way they are behaving, especially when it comes to how careful they’re being about the coronavirus. If they don’t change their behavior, the commissioner reportedly said infections could get out of hand to the point where the only alternative is ending play altogether.
Passan said his sources told him MLB officials understand the next few days are going to be quite important if the 2020 season is to continue. MLB is at a critical juncture after an outbreak on the Miami Marlins, where 18 players and coaches tested positive over the last week.
The Philadelphia Phillies, who were supposed to play the Marlins before the outbreak, had two staff members test positive for COVID-19 this week. On Friday, Manfred ordered the postponement of a game between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals after two Cardinals also tested positive.
Manfred was asked after the Marlins outbreak whether or not he and the owners had talked about shutting everything down. On Monday, he claimed he didn’t think the league was in a position where a total cancellation was needed. However, it appears that continued infections are starting to make him think twice. He has the power to put an end to baseball entirely in 2020 if he believes it needs to be done.
Those who were on the Friday phone call with Manfred and Clark said the situation is quite dire. They were reportedly told that if infected cases jump — or spread to other teams — Sunday could be the last day of the season.
Passan said the decision might be Manfred’s but added that the commissioner is also being pushed by outside forces.
State and local governments have been incensed by images and videos of players skirting the mandates outlined in the league’s 113-page operations manual. Broadcasts have shown people not wearing masks, high-fiving, and spitting. Government officials have, in turn, wondered just how seriously the virus is being taken by Manfred and other MLB officials.
Those on the call said Manfred would not, or could not say for certain if there was a deadline to decide or a threshold that would trigger a shutdown. Despite that, it’s thought the threat is a real one.