MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to a neutral-site World Series

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred appears at a SiriusXM Town Hall July 15, 2018. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM,)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred appears at a SiriusXM Town Hall July 15, 2018. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for SiriusXM,) /

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has received a lot of criticism this season and is on fire for considering a neutral-site World Series in the future. But is it all that bad of an idea?

According to the Sports Business Daily, Rob Manfred is keeping an open mind on a neutral-site World Series in future seasons. The 2020 season forced Manfred to think and work hard to make baseball possible during the global pandemic. The MLB did a great job managing a postseason under a “bubble” system, learning from other professional leagues like the NBA, WNBA, NWSL, and NHL.

In the 2020 postseason, all series’ were held at neutral ballparks. This sparked a discussion of whether it is something worth continuing in the MLB. At the moment, the Super Bowl is the only neutral-site championship game in the United States. The NHL does not use the neutral-site format, and neither does the NBA.

The MLS performed neutral-site championship games up until the 2011 season. The main reason why they chose to stop neutral-site finals was it did not reward the higher finishing team in the regular season, and the atmosphere felt a little duller. You could imagine that baseball fans would feel the same way as the MLS fans did and would be against Manfred’s comments.

The commissioner has already been receiving criticism about the potential of neutral-site World Series’:

I do understand the criticism towards Manfred’s optimism for neutral-site World Series’, but it really is not that bad of an idea. The skepticism towards Manfred’s most recent comments might be skewed by his controversial decisions he has made in the past.

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Yes, it would be weird to not have half of the games played in your home stadium, but there are also benefits to having a neutral-site World Series. Take the Super Bowl for example.

When a location and date are scheduled well in advance, it allows for an abundance of planning. One of the issues that come up with non-neutral-site postseason games is the lack of time in-between series to plan. It requires a lot of scrambling from the operational side which does not allow for grand ceremonies and activities to lead up to the event.

One of the reasons why the Super Bowl is so successful is because it is seen as a week-long event, rather than one game. The Super Bowl attracts NFL fans from across the nation to stay for the week-long celebration leading up to the game. A quick turnaround between the ALCS and NLCS to the World Series allows for minimal event planning. Fox Sports’ John Smoltz also said a week-long event for a World Series would be something he would enjoy.

Manfred said this to the Sports Business Daily:

"There were things that we saw in Texas that were advantages for us. You can plan. You can take out travel. You can pick sites that eliminate weather problems. Those are all things worthy of conversation and discussion. I think the big (weight) on the scale in favor of our traditional format, the thing that really matters at the end of the day, are fans in home markets."

Although Manfred saw some benefits from the neutral-site postseason set up in response to the pandemic, he still understands the importance of fanbases. The World Series can be one of the best sports environments and events to be at and it could be taken away with a neutral-site. But, again, the Super Bowl is held at a stadium chosen in advance and the stadium still gets rowdy.

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It will be interesting to see how Manfred internalizes what he learned from 2020 and how he will adjust in 2021. The pandemic may still be an issue for MLB next season and could require some more maneuvering to keep players, coaches, staff, and their families as safe as possible.