From logistics standpoint, the chances of an actual Major League Baseball season in 2020 still seem highly possible. After all, Commissioner Rob Manfred still has the ability to unilaterally mandate a shortened season per an agreement in March, coupled with the idea that teams could conceivably play wherever the hotspots of the coronavirus are not.
However, the coronavirus itself has been nothing near logical in its spread. Once biting its teeth into some of the most populous areas of the Northeast, it has now widened its attack into areas that were not affected as severely initially, like the warmer-climate states of Florida, Texas and Arizona—all regions of the country where Spring Training 2.0 activities would have taken place.
Indeed, while both the union and ownership have been bantering for months about the salary guidelines for a shortened season, perhaps the health and safety factors of the players, managers, and staff members should have been given a higher priority from the beginning.
As it stands, the players were expected to vote on the owners’ most recent proposal of an abbreviated 60-game season this weekend, but there has been a bit of a delay in the union’s response as the coronavirus has taken center stage as far as obstacles go with regards to a potential season.
In her column on Friday, Andy wonderfully presented her case for the 2020 season to be cancelled based on a number of reasonable factors. With respect to the pandemic itself, MLB has shut down all spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona, as teams are preparing for deep cleanings of those locations, as well as instituting some kind of testing policy for the people who frequent them.
The Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, Giants and Angels have all had players or visitors that either tested positive or showed symptoms of coronavirus in recent days at their respective training facilities. A total of 40 MLB players and staff members had positive COVID-19 tests in the last week, as reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
With the rise in cases among the MLB community, players are apparently concerned that the coronavirus could shorten the season to fewer than the proposed 60 games and further reduce pay. The players previously countered the league’s offer with a 70-game plan, but MLB showed no interest in the proposal at the time.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported on Sunday that Manfred sent a letter to union executive director Tony Clark offering to cancel expanded playoffs and universal designated hitter for 2021 if a full season isn’t played in 2020. Passan reflected that this proposed “olive branch” may be the last and best chance owners and players have to strike a deal.
Nevertheless, for as much attention that has been put on the economic factors of a prospective season, it is ultimately the coronavirus that could dictate what lies ahead for the MLB in the coming months.
Mark Polishuk of MLBTR summed it up nicely:
“The sheer number of people involved at every level of a big league organization makes it inevitable that more positive results beyond these initial 40 cases will emerge as testing continues in the coming days, weeks, and months. Even after a more concrete set of health and safety protocols are established, the threat of COVID-19 will hang over whatever baseball we see played in 2020, including the open question as to what will happen if a team-wide outbreak occurs during the season.”
Stay tuned for more news as it develops.