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Rob Manfred lays out MLB’s possible losses: ‘$4 billion’

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

As MLB and the Players Association negotiate about a possible season and what it would look like, both financially and on the field, it is helpful to know what is at stake.

For fans, there will be baseball to watch or no baseball to watch. For players, there will either be much money lost or they will be risking their health, as much as MLB wants to convince them it will be safe.

For the owners?

“If we don’t play a season, the losses for the owners could approach $4 billion,” Rob Manfred said Thursday night.

We now have a cold figure that illustrates just how desperate MLB is to return to the field, albeit without context. Would they be losing $4 billion or losing out on $4 billion? The league sent over a first proposal to the union earlier this week, and the two sides have been talking since, though the Players Association believes MLB is trying to negotiate in part on a pact that was already struck; the late March agreement between the parties involved the players agreeing to prorate their salaries, depending on how many games are played this season. With fans not likely to be allowed into games, MLB would like players to absorb additional cuts as they try to save money wherever it can be saved.

“The economic effects are devastating frankly for the clubs,” the commissioner said on CNN. “We’re a big business but we’re a seasonal business. Unfortunately this crisis began at a low point for us in terms of revenue. We hadn’t quite started our season yet.”

Manfred, in rare public comments during the negotiations, said he’s “hopeful” that there will be “some” Major League Baseball this summer. The league’s first proposal to the union involved a roughly 82-game regular season, beginning in July, before the playoffs.

It all hinges on 1) an agreement with the players and 2) if a season is begun, keeping the players safe. Manfred said he believes a positive COVID-19 test would not mean a team would go into quarantine. Instead, that player/coach would be removed from the team for 14 days, and point-of-care testing would be performed for anyone he’s been in recent contact with. Essentially, they hope testing will keep them from outbreaks.

Still, it’s possible and probably probable not every player would be willing.

“We hope that we’ll be able to convince the vast majority of our players that it’s safe to go back to work,” Manfred said.

San Francisco’s stay-at-home orders are extended through May and likely will be extended again. California has shown much more restraint than other states — Arizona and Florida already have said they will be open for sports — and it’s possible the Giants will be in Scottsdale.

“Most governors expressed hope that we would be able to use facilities without fans,” Manfred said. “But we do have contingency plans if in fact that was a problem in a particular market.”


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