Spring training has officially been suspended, and the regular season has been delayed by “by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic,” according to the statement released by MLB.
Given the current situation in the United States — and the world — this was the correct move. Spring training games should have been canceled a few days ago, but that doesn’t matter now. MLB did the right thing.
Here’s the full statement.
Delaying the season by at least two weeks creates a plethora of questions, though. Let’s take a look at a few of them, while keeping the proper global perspective, and also knowing there are no perfect answers in a situation like this.
Will the 2020 regular season be 162 games?
It’s important note two things: One, at this point MLB has only delayed the season’s start by two weeks. Two weeks worth of games — 12 or 13 games for each team — could possibly be made up, if that’s the ultimate goal, by double-headers, filled off days and maybe a week added to the end of the regular-season schedule. That’s incredibly messy, though. A true logistical nightmare that’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.
The second thing is this: MLB said Opening Day will be delayed “at least two weeks,” and at this point it seems feasible that the season won’t actually start on April 9. Who knows what the world will look like in two weeks, much less a month. Anything more than two weeks’ worth of missed games would be impossible to make up without pushing the World Series close to December. That isn’t going to happen.
It’s not a stretch to imagine a shortened 2020 season. Impossible (and a bit irresponsible) to guess how many games at this point.
How will teams proceed this spring?
MLB did touch on this topic in its release: “Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to Clubs in the coming days.” What that means, though, we don’t know. It’s reasonable to think that, first things first, players and staff will be evaluated by health professionals (as they obviously have already been doing) and anyone showing any symptoms will be tested for coronavirus.
Instead of two weeks until Opening Day — which was scheduled for March 26 for all 30 teams — there’s now at least a month. Do players stay in camp, basically going from their spring accommodations to the ballpark, trying to avoid the outside world while preparing for the season? Are they sent home for a couple weeks, then brought back?
Here’s an early hint.
Minor league players just officially reported this week, so it makes sense that they’ll likely go about business as usual. Their presence makes it easier to play intrasquad games, etc.
What about minor league baseball?
Speaking of minor leaguers, the start to the minor league season has been delayed, as well. The first day for full-season leagues was supposed to be April 9.
Here’s the statement from MiLB.
What’s the historical precedent for delayed/shortened seasons?
Let’s start with labor issues. The strike of 1994-95 ended the 1994 season after 114 games (give or take, depending on the team). The 1995 season started late because of the same issue, and MLB wound up playing a 144-game schedule. The 1981 strike ripped out a large chunk of games in the middle of the season. The 1990 lockout eliminated most of spring training, and the season was pushed back a week, though all 162 games were played. The 1972 strike lasted 13 days, and most teams played around 155 games. The 1985 strike lasted only two days, and almost all of those games were made up.
And then there’s this Spanish Flu delay, which feels eerily familiar, doesn’t it?
If the season is delayed significantly, what happens?
Let’s say things get worse, and the baseball season (and other sports) doesn’t start until May or June. Will there be a second spring training?
At some point, if a long delay is announced, teams aren’t going to keep players in camp for multiple more months. So it seems logical there would need to be a little ramp-up time, which means teams possibly going back to spring facilities for a couple of weeks to prepare. That’s especially important for pitchers.
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