If baseball is a symbol or microcosm of our nation at large, as baseball writers like to constantly tell us while finishing their Weetabix, then it scans that both of those entities are lacking leadership at this moment. Rob Manfred has no clue what to do, because his only directive — making sure the owners squeeze every possible dollar and most of the ones that aren’t possible — is in direct opposition to what’s right.
Manfred’s only goal is to complete this season to get the postseason so that MLB can get its playoff TV money. That’s it. Everything else is just window dressing. Even if he has to lie through his teeth about anything else. Look at this man and ask yourself if he instills any confidence of having a handle on the situation.
These comments are bullet points drummed up by a public relations staff to get him to the point he told them to get him to. If the health and safety of the players were paramount, or even a consideration, yesterday’s Marlins game wouldn’t have been played between them and the Phillies. The entire Marlins team would have been quarantined immediately, if not the entire league, to ensure that no more spread was possible. It’s the only way. And in reality, they wouldn’t have tried playing at all. Remember, every time they tell you the players come first, what they really mean is the profits the players generate come first.
What Manfred has opted for here isn’t even a half-measure. Waiting two days isn’t enough time for the proper amount of testing, much less clearing individuals and a team of the virus altogether. Marlins and Phillies players could have been infected Saturday or Sunday that won’t test positive until Thursday or Friday.
But waiting five to seven days would basically eat up the entire window MLB has left itself. The schedule calls for 60 games in 66 days, along with expanded playoffs, which means that there’s almost no room at the end of the season to make up games missed. Maybe one or two games at the most can be made up at season’s end. A team missing five days of action, which any expert would agree is the absolute minimum, leaves them with no room to make up those games.
Which means Manfred would have to cancel that team’s season, and basically cancel the whole thing. But he’s not going to do that. Not until there’s no other choice. He’s probably hoping the players walk so he doesn’t have to make the decision at all, and might even have a chance at painting them as the bad guys.
We’re already there, Rob.
Eleven players on Miami. That’s a third of the team. That’s non-competitive. Even the Dodgers and Yankees would struggle to be anything resembling what we know down 11 guys. And the safe plan, the only reasonable one, is to shut those 11 players down for a week or two.
So then, what is non-competitive in Manfred’s mind?
(This is where a joke about Manfred having no problem with team fielding uncompetitive squads in the past on purpose would go. Perhaps Manfred can see no difference between a team opting to be a Triple-A team or being forced to be one).
Look at that video above again. That’s a man that’s drowning. And in one sense, you understand. This is not something any commissioner is prepared for, or could have anticipated, at least up to March. All of Adam Silver, Gary Bettman, Roger Gooddell, and Manfred were flying blind. But Manfred is the only one who tried to go bubble-free with a sport that plays every day. The parameters are just different.
But much like the nation of which baseball still claims to be the pastime, being in over your head or simply not knowing doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions. Manfred should turn all of this over to one or a group of health experts and epidemiologists, just as so many others should.
But they wouldn’t make decisions that take into consideration the owners’ money, and Manfred and the owners know it. And Manfred knows he doesn’t know enough to be the one making the call. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try, because he’s under the impression it’s his job. He’s beaten every which way, and yet he’s still carrying on.
That’s a man who knows he’s lost. Just don’t expect him to ask for directions anytime soon.