Weeks after suspending play, Major League Baseball still finds itself in a state of uncertainty due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The start of the regular season has been delayed twice, and activities aren’t expected to resume until the middle of May at the earliest.
That is the best-case scenario, although players would presumably still need a couple of weeks at that point to get up to game speed. Many believe June or July is a more realistic target for Opening Day, which was originally supposed to take place March 26.
Prior to the sports world coming to a halt, multiple leagues discussed potentially holding games without fans in attendance to combat the spread of the virus.
Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Walker Buehler acknowledged that the possibility is one his teammates will have to accept in order to get back on the field as soon as possible, via David Vassegh of 570 AM L.A. Sports:
“Obviously our fans are such a big deal for us and our attendance being the way it is, we obviously want to play in front of our fans. But at the same time, we want to play baseball games as well. I think we’re just going to have to deal with whatever the guys in a different pay grade decide and just move forward.”
As MLB contemplates the idea of playing games in Arizona without fans in attendance, it is worth noting that Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball has done so for their preseason games but just delayed Opening Day because players tested positive.
Dodgers president of baseball of operations Andrew Friedman previously revealed that he couldn’t imagine MLB games being held without fans, but believes it may be necessary — at least initially — in order to accelerate the timeline of resuming play.
Facing the prospect of a two-month layoff, at minimum, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred conceded that a 162-game schedule for the 2020 season is no longer feasible.
Some around the league, however, are believed to be open to the idea of playing in a significant amount of doubleheaders to compensate for the lost time.
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