LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Major League Baseball owners are mulling the possibility of a midseason stoppage in 2028 to allow players to participate in the Los Angeles Summer Olympics.
After a presentation at the owners meetings from Casey Wasserman, chairman of LA 28 and also CEO of the Wasserman agency that represents some MLB players — a presentation that commissioner Rob Manfred described as “thoughtful and polished” — the international committee chaired by the Cubs’ Tom Ricketts will dive into the considerable logistics that would need to be cleared.
The Olympic competition featuring six or eight nations competing for 5-6 days could replace or be held in addition to the All-Star Game that year, The Athletic reported, or the season could be shortened by a few games.
Any plan would need input and buy-in from the Players Association.
The advantages of participating, said Manfred, are “the opportunity to make a splash and attract the kind of attention that would be associated with a team, eventually multiple teams I suspect, the best players in Major League Baseball in a short tournament like that.”
The risk of players getting hurt is one concern of the owners.
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On the fluid regional-sport-network front that includes an ongoing legal battle with the bankrupt Diamond Sports Group, Manfred is looking ahead to 2025 as to when he hopes MLB will be able to offer consumers in about half its markets their own direct-to-consumer streaming platform.
This would allow fans to watch the team in their own market, unlike the current MLB.tv, which effectively blacks out games.
“I think you need to be in the 14-and-growing mode,” said Manfred, referring to how many teams need to be included in the initial market.
The fate of Diamond is unclear, with Amazon potentially coming to a rescue that would allow it to restructure rather than fold.
On this week’s news that Warner Bros. Discovery, ESPN, and Fox are joining forces for a mega-streaming sports platform, Manfred said, “I see that development as positive. I think it’s another place that’s going to need to buy rights in order to make the platform go, and compelling, and I think it’s good to have another buyer.
“I think it’s particularly good for us. You think about it, it’s our three biggest partners, right? All positive.”
The A’s move out of Oakland to Las Vegas in four years is stuck in neutral, with no set plans for a new stadium for 2028 or an interim home after this coming season at the Oakland Coliseum.
Manfred is concerned.
“I will be disappointed if we didn’t open that stadium on Opening Day in 2028,” said Manfred. “Disappointed not just in the sense I think it’s the best for the A’s and the best for the game.”
As far as an interim home, Manfred said he was “comfortable with where they are in the process” but that a decision needs to be made in the “next few months.”
“It’s not like they don’t know where they’re going to be in 2024,” said Manfred. “They have options, and I think they’re doing a good job of exploring them and making sure we find the best possible opportunity.”
There has been talk of the A’s moving to Sacramento, among other locales.
“It’s clearly going to be someplace in the West,” said Manfred. “There’s a difference between some places in the West and other places in the West, right? So we need to get at it.”
Before softening her comments a bit, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told Front Office Sports on a podcast this week that the A’s “should figure out a way to stay in Oakland” in part because the stadium plans do not make sense to her.
Manfred said he tried out the MLB app on Apple’s new virtual reality headset, Apple Vision Pro, during a demonstration. “Really impressive,” he said. “I think the owners were impressed not only with the technology, but the fact that we were kind of there at the beginning of it. We take a certain amount of pride in baseball’s presence on the cutting edge of technology in sports.” … After a 2023 season in which average attendance jumped nearly 2,500 to 29,295, Manfred ticked off a number of stats that bode well for the game’s growth: there were 11 separate weekends in which games drew 1.5 million fans after just five such weekends in the previous two years; local baseball programming was ranked No. 1 in 22 of 29 markets; tickets sales in the age 18-35 demographic are up 10 percent over the last four years; and the median age of ticketed fans dropped from 51 to 45. “People feel like 2024 is going to be a year where we build on a really good 2023,” said Manfred.
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.