When Major League Baseball cancelled remaining Spring Training games in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the hope was to begin the regular season in short order. Opening Day, initially, was only delayed for two weeks.
As the pandemic continued to worsen in multiple states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended against gatherings of 50 or more through May 10, MLB pushed back the start of the season for a second time.
It remains indefinitely suspended, though recent reports indicated MLB was contemplating beginning the season with all teams in Arizona, or using the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues and new division realignment.
Although the league and MLB Players Association have engaged in preliminary discussions, commissioner Rob Manfred made it clear the season will not begin until a safe environment is in place, via the Fox Business Network:
“Most important, the only decision that we’ve made, the only real plan that we have, is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation has improved to the point that we’re comfortable that we can play games in a manner that’s safe for our players, our employees, our fans. And in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely.
“Right now, it’s largely a waiting game. During that period, as you might expect, we have engaged in contingency planning. We’ve thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios. But again, the key is the improvement in the public health situation.”
Although two proposals have been made public, Los Angeles Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten recently cautioned that a slew of ideas are being discussed. He added one or two of those scenarios had not taken precedent over the others.
The Arizona plan reportedly had gained early support from federal health officials and included a target of beginning the season in May. However, given the unpredictability of the coronavirus impact, it’s difficult to foresee that as a legitimate possibility.
If there is one certainty that can be taken from the situation, it’s that fans don’t figure to be permitted if and when games begin. Though, in a recent poll by Seton Hall, 76% said they would not have interest in attending a sporting event if a coronavirus vaccine was not developed.
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