MLB commissioner Rob Manfred tried to put a dollar figure on baseball not being played at all this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Manfred told CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Thursday that the 30 clubs could lose about $4 billion combined if there are no games. Cooper did not follow up on how Manfred arrived at that estimate.

Manfred said teams are willing to stage games behind closed doors at the start of the season and not take in revenue from fans. MLB is estimated to be a $10 billion industry.

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“Playing in empty stadiums is not a great deal for us economically,” he said. “Our owners are committed to doing that because they feel it’s important that game be back on the field and that the game be a sign of a beginning to return to normalcy to American life the way we’ve always enjoyed it.”

Gupta tried to press Manfred on reports owners are trying to get the players to accept a revenue-sharing plan rather than honor a March agreement that calls for players to be paid based on the number of games played in the season. Players believe revenue sharing would consititute a pay cut and resisting the idea. Gupta then transitioned to a question about players feeling that the risk of playing under that plan is too great and the optics of the negotiations. 

Manfred responded that he has “great confidence” that MLB will reach an agreement with the players association. He also said he’s “hopeful” there will be baseball this summer. 

The Associated Press reported early Friday that lawyers for the players association asked the owners for financial documents related to baseball’s finances.

Rays left-hander Blake Snell said Wednesday that he would not risk playing if the revenue-share plan goes into effect. Manfred told CNN that MLB would not demand players take the field if they have doubts of any kind.  

“We hope that we will able to convince the vast majority of our players that it’s safe to return to work,” he said. “If there’s players with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we would never force them or try to force them to come back to work. They can wait until they feel they’re ready to come.”

To that end, Manfred outlined a protocol of extensive testing for COVID-19 and its symptoms and contact tracing once someone tests positive. Notably, he said a Utah laboratory that has been used in the past to screen drug tests of minor league players will be used to screen coronavirus tests and produce results within 24 hours.

Anyone who tests positive will be quarantined until they test negative twice over a 24-hour period, Manfred said.

This article has been updated with the AP’s report on the players association’s request for documents.



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