Coronavirus: What’s next for MLB as a pandemic shuts down the sport?

Tim Brown and Hannah Keyser
·3 min read
PEORIA, ARIZONA - MARCH 13: Closed signs and MLB news releases are displayed on box office windows outside of Peoria Stadium, home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners on March 13, 2020 in Peoria, Arizona. Major League Baseball cancelled spring training games and has delayed opening day by at least two weeks due to COVID-19. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Major League Baseball canceled spring training and delayed opening day by at least two weeks, but will now have choices to make as CDC recommendations push large gatherings back at least 8 weeks. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As Major League Baseball negotiates the uncharted territory of the coronavirus causing an indefinite delay to the season, our reporters are keeping you updated on the latest questions and decisions affecting the sport, its players and the fans.

MLB announced in a statement Monday that it will push opening day back even further, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to suspend all gatherings of over 50 people for the next eight weeks.

The league had previously postponed the start of games by at least two weeks, which would have set an April 9 opening day at the earliest. That date, as expected, will now be significantly later. The current CDC guidelines would set the most optimistic target on May 11.

Commissioner Rob Manfred held a conference call with teams on Monday, but did not set a new target for starting the season. “MLB will keep fans updated on decisions regarding plans for the 2020 schedule in the days and weeks ahead. The Clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins,” the statement said.

Union memo to agents outlines spring training reimbursement, facility confusion

THE LATEST: A two-page memo issued by the Major League Baseball Players Association to player agents Monday morning addressed several key issues, including the reimbursement of lost living wages (up to $1,100 per week) if a player chooses to leave spring training, and an admission that some clubs have not made training site facilities available, creating “a significant amount of confusion on the ground.”

The memo confirmed that as of Monday morning club rosters had not been frozen, but that a transaction and signing freeze “is possible in the very near future.” That would be lifted when spring training camps re-open. The union also favors what it called the “tolling” of opt-out clauses, in which those affected could exercise those rights upon the reconvening of camps.

The memo concluded:

“Finally, a note to inform you that our negotiations with the Commissioner’s Office continue on a host of issues, including (to name a few): conditions for resumption of play; amended scheduling; player salaries; Major League service; contracts and transactions; core economics (revenue sharing, CBT, Debt Service Rule, etc.); amateur signings (Rule 4 and International); potential adjustments for collectively bargained dates and deadlines.”

WHAT’S IT MEAN? The situation is fluid. Five days ago, MLB banned non-essential personnel from clubhouses. Just four days ago, spring training games were being played. The union is negotiating daily with MLB officials while also attempting to educate its members on what amounts to a moving target. There was an expectation that commissioner Rob Manfred’s conference call with owners on Monday would lead to a shuttering of spring sites and, therefore, ending at least some of the confusion. - Tim Brown

This post will be updated.