Cubs: We could see fans back in the stands at Wrigley Field in 2021

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Rob Manfred wants to see Chicago Cubs fans back at Wrigley Field next season.

Look. We all miss baseball. Not the 2020 version we got this year, with artificial crowd noise and cardboard cutouts in the stands, but the Friday afternoons in the bleachers at Wrigley Field with 40,000 of your closest friends after you cut out of work early and hopped on the Red Line to watch the Cubs.

But, like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging on, stronger than ever, with the United States experiencing unprecedented outbreaks and hospitalizations across the nation. Even so, the league and commissioner Rob Manfred want to see fans back in ballparks in 2021, saying MLB will be “more aggressive” about filling seats moving forward.

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I mean, of course they will. We know what the financials looked like for organizations without that much-needed revenue stream this year. Another such season could be crippling for some teams.

"“If local public health authorities allow for fans, I think you’re going to see fans in the ballpark next year. Now, will it be full stadiums? I kind of doubt that,” Manfred said. “But we do think it’s important, and it’s why we did it in the World Series and the LCS: to get people accustomed to the idea that you can go to these live events with appropriate protocols, pods of people, social distancing, masks, and do it safely.”"

Current estimates peg potential widespread distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine in late Q1 or early Q2 next year. That would align roughly with the start of the MLB season, although, as Manfred noted, local and state health authorities will have a huge role to play in planning how this could work.

We know that without the revenue that comes from ticket sales, apparel and concessions, the Cubs lost tens of millions of dollars. Factor in the businesses and properties in the area the Ricketts family also own that were impacted by the pandemic and it’s not hard to see how devastating an impact this year had on the bottom line.

That will undoubtedly lead to Theo Epstein working on a diminished baseball operations budget this offseason – hardly an encouraging thought when he was already pinching pennies the last couple of winters as he pieced together a team. Over 100 staff members lost their jobs this year across the organization because of the financial losses, as well.

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Here’s the bottom line, though. It’ll take all of us – as baseball fans and a society – to do our part in the meantime. Let’s wear our masks, socially distance and avoid the gatherings we all so desperately long for so next summer, we can raise a cold one at the Friendly Confines and take in Cubs baseball on a sunny afternoon.

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