In response to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Major League Baseball joined the NBA, NHL and other professional sports leagues by temporarily suspending operations.
It led to the cancellation of all remaining Spring Training games and an indefinite delay to the regular season. While April 9 was identified as a possible target for Opening Day, the date has since been ruled out.
MLB further pushed back the start of the season in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizing citizens practice “social distancing” for eight weeks. The earliest the regular season could now start is mid-May, though some believe June is a more realistic timeline given the uncertainty of the coronavirus situation.
Prior to the sports world coming to a complete halt, there were discussions among some leagues of potentially holding games without fans being allowed to attend.
Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman admitted that he can’t imagine MLB games being played without fans in attendance, but believes it might be necessary in order to prevent an even lengthier delay, via AM 570 L.A. Sports:
“No, but I also can’t imagine suspending a season. There’s so many things that are not ideal with this. It’s obviously affecting some people in ways that are much more significant than sports, which helps kind of put all of it in perspective. However ultimately we can provide the entertainment — and it may be with people watching it on TV, it may be with people in the stands — how and when that plays out, I think remains to be seen. But I do think in the scenario where people are spending more time at home, watching the greatest baseball players in the world play baseball is a pretty enjoyable way to spend some time.”
With no end in sight to the coronavirus outbreak, it may make sense for MLB — at least initially — to play games without fans in attendance.
Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan is following a similar model, currently playing their preseason games in empty stadiums.
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