6:55PM: The Center Of Disease Control And Prevention has issued a recommendation against any events of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks in the United States. That eight-week timeline would last until May 9, so assuming that the health situation stabilizes within those eight weeks, a Memorial Day start to baseball season wouldn’t seem feasible, given the necessary time required for preseason preparations.
4:56PM: With MLB operations on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the season remains on hold until at least Memorial Day weekend, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Such a scenario would push back the beginning of the regular season to late May. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the commencement of the season “anytime before June would be viewed as welcome.”
Officially, the beginning of the regular season has been delayed for a minimum of two weeks, which points to April 9 as the earliest date for the sport’s return. But in light of recent developments, that date is looking more and more like a mere pipe dream. Indeed, Robert Murray reports that the MLBPA has advised players to consider returning to the place they would be most comfortable for the next 4-6 weeks. The Athletic writers Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich reported yesterday that it was unlikely for the season to begin before May.
In light of a memo distributed by MLB this morning, minor leaguers have been sent home and organized group workouts at team facilities have been halted. Yesterday, it looked like a host of teams were planning to stick together despite the stoppage, but it’s expected that more and more clubs will vacate their Spring Training facilities in the coming days. And with affiliated baseball discovering its first confirmed case of the virus this morning, teams may be more hesitant to keep players grouped together.
By all accounts, MLB is still aiming to play a 162-game season, but the feasibility of that goal will no doubt be challenged by any significant setback. If indeed the season is delayed until Memorial Day or June, a truncated season may be in order. Otherwise, we might be looking (speculatively) at December World Series games in neutral sites. Of course, specifics on this front are scarce and will remain nebulous until the situation gains clarity.
The consequences of a delayed regular season are wide-ranging, and the subsequent questions that must be resolved will be manifold. Issues such as compensation (especially for minor league players and stadium staff), service time, schedule structure, workouts, and plenty more will need to be sorted out before the 2020 campaign may carry on.