Sports are back, and fans are slowly starting to return to watching live games at stadiums and arena. Major League Baseball has not had live fans at their stadiums throughout the 60-game season, but that could change during the playoffs. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, stating how the league is planning to have fans at the National League Championship Series and the World Series. Both of those will take place at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
"We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas," Manfred said. "One of the most important things to our game is the presence of fans — starting down the path of having fans in stadiums, and in a safe and risk-free environment, is very, very important to our game." Manfred didn't say how many fans will be allowed to attend, but it's likely going to be a limited capacity. Having the NLCS and World Series in Arlington is part of the MLB's plan to cut down on the traveling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with neutral locations, the postseason is now expanded to 16 teams instead of 10. Manfred said he would like to have 14 teams in the postseason down the road.
"Look, 16 teams, was a really good solution for the unique environment we had in 2020,'" Manfred said. "But I want to be clear, when I talked about the expanded playoffs going forward before COVID ever hit, we never talked about 16 teams as a permanent solution. We never talked about more than 14 teams. Those plans addressed marginalizing the value of winning the division, and preserving the competitiveness through the regular season." With the season only being 60 games long, having more playoffs teams make sense. And based on the way the season started, it's an accomplishment the league has been able to make it without suspending or calling the year off.
There have been multiple teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, who dealt with numerous COVID-19 cases. But those teams and the league were able to push through. "We had the Marlins situation, but then St. Louis came right on top of it,'" Manfred said, "and I'll tell you, I got nervous. Those two situations had multiple cases, but were very different. I was really, really nervous."