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Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred likes larger playoff format, runner on second in extras

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the 30 teams combined for $3 billion in operating losses because of the coronavirus pandemic.Ronald Martinez/Getty

Ahead of a World Series capping the pandemic-shortened season, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes to keep two of this year’s innovations: expanded playoffs and starting extra innings with a runner on second base.

“People were wildly unenthusiastic about the changes. And then when they saw them in action, they were much more positive,” Manfred said Tuesday during an interview with the Associated Press.

Manfred said the 30 teams combined for $3 billion in operating losses because of the coronavirus pandemic, which caused all 898 regular-season games to be played in empty ballparks without fans.

After Opening Day was delayed from March 26 to July 23, MLB and the players' association agreed to expand the number of teams in the playoffs from 10 to 16. Even before the pandemic, Manfred advocated a future expansion of the playoffs to 14 teams.


“I like the idea of, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, an expanded playoff format,” Manfred said. “I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change.”

With the added runner rule, the longest of 68 games of 10 innings or longer were a pair of 13-inning contests.

“I think the players like it,” Manfred said. “I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing.”

Union head Tony Clark said it was too soon to commit to changes for 2021. The sport’s labor contract runs through 2021, and the union’s agreement is needed to alter the 2021 structure.


“We made a number of one-year changes this season under unique circumstances,” Clark wrote in an e-mail to the AP. “We are gathering feedback from players and we’ll bring that to the league at the appropriate time. Obviously, protecting health and safety will remain among several important considerations as those talks unfold.”

Manfred is concerned about whether fans will be allowed to attend games next season.

“We understand what happens with fans is going to be a product of what happens with the virus, what decisions public health authorities make in terms of mass gatherings,” he said. “It is a huge issue for us in terms of the economics of the game. The losses that I referred to earlier were basically in stone when we started the season because we knew about 40 percent of our revenue is gate-related and we knew we weren’t going to have it.”

“The clubs have done a really good job locally and we tried to do a good job centrally,” he added. “The liquidity is sufficient to get us through 2020. I think if we’re faced with limited activity next year and the kind of losses that we suffered this year, again, it will become more of a problem.”

Manfred was pleased with the rule he pushed for forcing pitchers to face a minimum of three batters or to finish the half-inning.

“There’s nothing about what happened this year that has changed, not only in my mind, but anybody in the game’s mind about it, and I think that’s here to stay,” he said.


Mets sale closer

The proposed purchase of 95 percent of the New York Mets by an entity of billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen has been approved by Major League Baseball’s ownership committee, and final approval is likely to take place in the next month.

Approval by the committee was disclosed by a person familiar with the decision who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

Baseball’s executive council will consider the deal next and is expected to forward it for a vote by all major league owners. The sale values the franchise at $2.4 billion to $2.5 billion.

The current Mets ownership group is headed by Fred Wilpon, brother-in-law Saul Katz, and Jeff Wilpon, Fred’s son and the team’s chief operating officer. The Wilpon and Katz families would retain 5 percent of the team.

Cohen first bought into the Mets when the team sought $20 million in minority investment stakes following the collapse of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which heavily cost the Wilpons and their companies. The limited partnership shares were sold after a proposed $200 million sale of a stake of the Mets to hedge fund manager David Einhorn fell through in 2011.

Luhnow maintains innocence

A little more than nine months after he was fired by the Astros in the wake of their sign-stealing scandal, Jeff Luhnow denied knowing anything about it, adding that perhaps one day he might return to the sport.

Luhnow, the former general manager, admitted, “it was bad” and “it shouldn’t have happened,” but maintained that he would have stopped the cheating if he had been aware it was going on in 2017, when the Astros won the World Series, and in 2018.


“Our team broke the rules and I’m sure there was some advantage gained from breaking the rules,” Luhnow told KPRC-TV in Houston. “But, unfortunately, had I known about it, I would have stopped it. Nobody came to me and told me it was going on, and I just didn’t know.”

Luhnow, who said he was “shocked” when his name came up in connection with the electronic sign-stealing scandal, said he told commissioner Rob Manfred that he would be willing to take a lie-detector test to show his innocence. However, he and A.J. Hinch, the team’s manager, were suspended for a year, and Hinch was fired, too.

“I was not expecting a yearlong suspension,” Luhnow said, “I was certainly not expecting for the team I spent eight years building to fire me and let me go.”

Rays’ changes

Outfielder Brett Phillips and lefthander Ryan Sherriff were added to the Rays' roster for the World Series. Righthander Aaron Slegers and lefthander José Alvarado were dropped Tuesday before the opener against the Dodgers. Tampa Bay went with 13 pitchers, one fewer than during the AL Championship Series against the Astros, which was played on seven consecutive days. The World Series has off days after Games 2 and 5. The Dodgers did not make any changes from their NL Championship Series roster against Atlanta and carried 15 pitchers and 13 position players … Former major league umpire Derryl Cousins, who worked three World Series during a career that lasted more than three decades, died after a battle with cancer. He was 74.