As Major League Baseball tries to navigate the 2020 season amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Rob Manfred hasn’t exactly done himself any favors. The league implemented shoddy testing and safety protocols, yet Manfred believes that “players need to be better” when it comes to combatting COVID-19.
“I’m probably going to be a little biased here, but I just don’t think we’ve handled this since the beginning very well,” Cubs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said on Tiki & Tierney. “I don’t think that what Manfred’s done for the sport has been very good. I don’t think the way that everything was publicly humiliated was good. I just don’t think it’s been good. I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed as a player to watch this take place because when I leave this game, I want to leave it for the generations. We do this for the fans. There’s been so much distraction and so much hidden agendas in all these discussions that it’s almost been just embarrassing. I don’t know any other way to put it.”
Indeed, return-to-play negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA were, in a word, contentious. Manfred later acknowledged that owners were set on a 60-game season from the start – regardless of how negotiations went with the union.
Publicly criticizing players who have contracted COVID-19 wasn’t exactly a good look, either.
“I do know that . . . [the] players are doing all they can to stay on the field,” Souza Jr. said. “Everybody wants to finish this season and they want to play and they’re doing all they can with safety protocols. And so, from a player’s perspective, I just think that everybody is doing the best they can except for obviously the situation in Miami.”
As of Monday, MLB has been forced to cancel 21 games involving nine teams due to COVID-19.
“It’s definitely complicated,” Souza Jr. said of the altered schedule. “I don’t know how it’s all going to work out in the end . . . but I do know that there’s 16 teams that are going to the postseason, so I think there’s some kind of room for that. I think that kind of bridges the gap of some uncertainty. If you’re really bad, you’re just not going to make it. That’s the bottom 14 teams in the league. If you’re somewhere in the middle, I think there’s some ground work to kind of bridge that [gap]. I think that’ll take care of a lot of stuff, having that 16-team playoff. It’ll get the teams that probably should be in there that maybe [had] something [happen] along the lines.”