AP Interview: Manfred likes larger playoff, runner in extras

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Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred watches Game 1 of the baseball World Series Tuesday between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

ARLINGTON, Texas – Ahead of a World Series capping the pandemic-shortened season, baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes to keep two of this year’s innovations: expanded playoffs and starting extra innings with runners on second base.

“People were wildly unenthusiastic about the changes. And then when they saw them in action, they were much more positive,” Manfred said Tuesday during an interview with The Associated Press.

Manfred said the 30 teams combined for $3 billion in operating losses due the coronavirus pandemic, which caused all 898 regular-season games to be played in empty ballparks without fans.

After opening day was delayed from March 26 to July 23, MLB and the players’ association agreed to expand the number of teams in the playoffs from 10 to 16. Even before the pandemic, Manfred advocated a future expansion of the playoffs to 14 teams.

“I like the idea of, and I’m choosing my words carefully here, an expanded playoff format,” Manfred said. “I don’t think we would do 16 like we did this year. I think we do have to be cognizant of making sure that we preserve the importance of our regular season. But I think something beyond the 10 that we were at would be a good change.”

With the added runner rule, the longest of 68 games of 10 innings or longer were a pair of 13-inning contests, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I think the players like it,” Manfred said. “I think it’s really good from a safety and health perspective that keeps us from putting players in situations where they’re out there too long or in positions they’re not used to playing.”

Union head Tony Clark said it was too soon to commit to changes for 2021. The sport’s labor contract runs through 2021, and the union’s agreement is needed to alter the 2021 structure.