Upon Major League Baseball initially delaying the start of the 2020 season for two weeks because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the hope remained to play 162 games. That still held true when MLB delayed Opening Day a second time.
The latest case was in relation to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting all gatherings of at least 50 people be cancelled through May 10. Assuming it holds true for the next several weeks, MLB would not be able to begin a second Spring Training until the middle of May.
Thus, that rough timeline points to the 2020 MLB season likely not beginning until June. The further Opening Day slips into the calendar, the more challenging it becomes to play a full slate of games.
During an interview with Scott Van Pelt on ESPN, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred conceded the outlook for a 162-game season is no longer feasible, and he instead is focused on still producing something of a normal year that will entertain fans:
“I think we need to have a regular season with a credible number of games. I think we should have a postseason format that focuses on providing the most possible entertaining product to our fans at a very, very difficult time in our history. Overall, I think our goal is to play as many baseball games as we possibly can given the limitations associated with the public health concerns.
“I think the exact number that we’ll see as reasonable is going to depend on when we get the go ahead to play. I don’t have some absolute number in my mind that’s a make or break. I think we have to evaluate the situation. I also think we need to be creative in terms of what the schedule looks like, what the postseason format looks like. Obviously, our fans love a 162-game season and the postseason format that we have, (but) we’re probably not going to be able to do that this year. I think that’s clear. It does give us an opportunity to do some different things, to experiment, and to make sure we provide as many games as possible and as entertaining a product as possible.”
Beyond the sheer loss of games, MLB and the MLB Players Association face other logistical and financial implications. Though, MLB reportedly agreed to grant players full service time regardless of how many games the 2020 season ultimately winds up being.
As for the postseason, the league is said to be open to playing games at neutral sites in effort to combat possible weather issues come late fall.
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