ARLINGTON, Texas — With the 2020 Major League Baseball season in the books, commissioner Rob Manfred reflected on a campaign that looked dramatically different from anything we've ever seen before.
“I think baseball should be proud of what it accomplished this year,’’ Manfred told USA TODAY Sports. “We faced challenges unlike any other in the history of the sport. We managed to confront them by working with the players, working with the clubs. I regard that to be a great success.’’
Baseball expanded the playoff field from 10 to 16 teams, which Manfred acknowledged is probably too much for a 162-game season, but it worked well with the 60-game schedule.
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The two teams with the best records in the American League and National League still met in the World Series, and the team with the best record overall, won it all.
“I thought the first week of the playoffs, the two-out-of-three series, were outstanding for the game,’’ Manfred said. “I like the bracket. I like the feel of baseball occupying the airwaves for the week.
"I thought it was positive. And then we were fortunate. We had two great seven-game series in the NLCS and the ALCS, and a really competitive World Series with great storylines. We couldn’t ask for better.’’
Rob Manfred presents the Commissioner's Trophy after Game 6. (Photo: Tom Pennington, Getty Images)
Andfor the first time all year, there were real fans in the stands – not just cardboard cutouts. The state of Texas permitted about 11,000 fans to attend games in the NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, and again in the World Series.
It could be the model for the 2021 season.
“The fact that we were able to safely have fans in the stadium the last two rounds,’’ Manfred said, “certainly improved the atmosphere in the ballpark. And I think it’s a demonstration that it’s possible with the right rules and protocols to have fans at events.
“It provides a model that can be expanded next year.’’
Baseball still hopes for a semblance of normalcy next year, with hopes of playing postseason games in teams’ own cities, but playing at neutral sites does present an opportunity for the future.
“I think the neutral site for these circumstances was a huge plus,’’ Manfred said. “It was a big part of us being able to get though the postseason. And I think it was the right decision for this sport …
“I think the fans in the home markets are an important part of the World Series, but there are certain parts of the neutral site experience that were certainly good.’’
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