MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says 'we are playing' but 'players need to be better'

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred remains confident the 2020 season can continue, telling ESPN's Karl Ravech on Saturday that "there is no reason to quit now" despite positive coronavirus tests that have led to the postponement of 17 games in 10 days.

"We are playing," Manfred told Ravech. "The players need to be better, but I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable."

Manfred acknowledged Saturday that not every team might play all 60 games this season, and winning percentage could be used to determine playoff teams.

"We've got to be flexible on that," Manfred told The Associated Press on Saturday. "Look, this is one of the reasons that we revisited the issue off the expanded playoffs. If it turns out that some guys play 60, some guys play 58, they have this new thing called winning percentage. We can sort that out."

Manfred's comments follow the postponement of this weekend's St. Louis Cardinals-Milwaukee Brewers series. The postponement was caused by four positive COVID-19 tests among the Cardinals, including one player, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

Manfred on Friday told MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark that if the sport doesn't do a better job of managing the coronavirus, it could shut down for the season, sources familiar with the conversation told ESPN's Jeff Passan.

"It is what the public health experts have been saying from the beginning about this, that there is no one big magic fix," Manfred told the AP.

"The protocols are a series of little things that people need to do. We've had some problems. In order to be better, it's another series of little things. I think it's peer pressure. I think it's players taking personal responsibility. I think it's the union helping us like Tony Clark helped us yesterday. And I think it's us managing more aggressively."

The league and players recognize the coming days pose a critical juncture following the positive tests with the Cardinals and an outbreak among the Miami Marlins in which 21 members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19.

Manfred told The Associated Press that MLB knows which player introduced COVID-19 into the Marlins' clubhouse.

The Marlins on Saturday reported no new positive tests, and MLB said the current plan is for the team to resume play with a four-game series against the Orioles from Tuesday through Thursday, with one doubleheader, in Baltimore. The Marlins will serve as home team for two of those games.

In other rescheduling announcements:

  • The Yankees and Phillies will play a four-game home-and-home series from Monday through Thursday -- in New York on Monday and Tuesday, and in Philadelphia on Wednesday and Thursday.

  • The originally scheduled game between the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday will be rescheduled as part of a doubleheader for next Saturday. The remainder of their four-game series on Friday and Sunday will remain as scheduled.

  • The originally scheduled games between the Phillies and Marlins from this past week -- as well as the originally scheduled game between the Yankees and Orioles on Aug. 5 -- will be rescheduled for a later date.

"I think that if everybody does what they are supposed to do, we can continue to play, have a credible season and get through the postseason," Manfred told the AP.

"I don't think it's realistic to think that we're not going to have any more positive tests. We're going to be fluid. We think it's manageable and we're going to continue to try to manage it."

Given all the schedule changes, MLB is considering whether active rosters should remain at 30 rather than decrease to 28 on Thursday, as scheduled. No decision has been made.

"This is kind of a day-to-day thing right now," Manfred said. "You've just got to get up in the morning and figure out a way to keep going through another day to stay safe for people."

Should another outbreak materialize, Manfred, who has the power to shut down the season, could move in that direction. Multiple players briefed on Friday's call feared the season could have been shut down as soon as Monday if positive tests jumped or if players continue not to strictly abide by the league's protocols, sources told ESPN.

State and local governments have pressured baseball about players skirting the mandates outlined in the league's 113-page operations manual, sources told ESPN. Broadcasts that have shown players high-fiving, spitting and not wearing masks have left government officials wondering how seriously players are taking the protocols, sources said.

Further, there is concern about off-the-field choices, with one high-ranking official saying: "There are some bad decisions being made."

MLB-mandated monitors have been accompanying teams on the road since Wednesday in an effort to cause stricter adherence to the protocols.

"I think it's a top-down thing," Yankees pitcher James Paxton said. "I think that if your leadership is showing how important it is and you've got the front office like we have here taking it very seriously, I think that then that'll trickle down to the players taking it seriously."

Added Phillies manager Joe Girardi: "There's risk in everything we do. I know that we've done a -- knock on wood -- a really good job of controlling our atmosphere here. And I think it's important that everyone does that. You can't slip up, you can't make a bad decision because it can really cost your organization the game of baseball and everything."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.