After four months of careful planning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic on how to best start the highly anticipated 2020 season, Major League Baseball set a date for the last week of July. After all of that anticipation, things seemed to be moving along smoothly for a grand total of about three days.
The reason for this concern is very simple and is something that the MLB considered a possibility even before the season began. Approximately 14 players and personnel for the Miami Marlins have tested positive for the virus. The reason for this sudden outbreak is unknown. The team had previously played a series of exhibition games in Atlanta and moved on to the first official games of the season in Philadelphia.Read More »
The Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred is now put into a very difficult position that could play itself out in a few different scenarios. In summary, Manfred could do nothing and hope that nobody else tests positive, delay the 2020 season after the already way later start and abbreviated schedule, or just call it a day and cancel the entire rest of the season. Of course, there may be a few other options that are hybrids of these other ones, but regardless of what happens the situation is already quite serious.
The decision to simply cancel just two games that were relevant to the Miami’s schedule is something that should also be looked at. All of the other games that were scheduled to be played Monday went on as scheduled. There is no telling as of yet whether or not this was the right decision but it may not be long before there is a new development in the story.
The league had seemingly kept everything mostly under control in the lead up to the new opening day. Just nine players tested positive over the past two weeks with a total of just 29 players and staff receiving positive results since the restart of baseball. The issue with this was that travel was not accounted for and seems to be a huge “wild card” in this entire situation.
What will happen from here?
From here, the league will have to keep an even closer eye than it already did on all operational aspects. They will need to act quickly if something like this occurs again. They will also have to be more diligent in their overall policies so there is not even a chance of the spread of the virus. In fact, three Marlins players had already tested positive for the virus only two days after another player yet the team still played their game on Sunday. The team’s manager Don Mattingly maintained that the Marlins had not considered the option of not playing the game even with three positive tests coming from players on the team.
Players for the opposing Philadelphia Phillies are also on high alert since they took the same field as the Marlins. The players have been alerted about the possibility that they might now test positive because of this and it remains to be seen if that will happen in the coming days.
Just three games into the season, players and staff are already forced to reevaluate whether or not they want to risk their health and families to play out an already abbreviated season. The idea that there are a “few bumps in the road” can only go so far when human lives are at stake. Well, Major League Baseball just hit its first bump hard, that’s for sure.
Really the question that lingers now for baseball fans, players and officials is how many times can something like this really happen without the complete cancellation of the season. Will the 2020 season include several of these kinds of stories or is this just an early aberration that the league can look back on?
The pressure to keep the season running as planned is high, especially after Major League Baseball garnered the highest TV ratings for a regular season game in years. Even though there are no fans in the stands, the economic incentives from TV contracts are quite high, especially when a large percentage of the population is yearning for live sports and can’t leave the home.
Will this scare be an indicator of what’s to come in other sports?
There is a strong possibility that the MLB’s plan to keep teams traveling and not be based in one specific area could be second guessed if the season does not pan out. The NBA opted for a bubble in Orlando while the NHL will limit all games to two cities. The lack of a central base for baseball could be its ultimate downfall this season.
Of course, baseball is the first major North American sport to attempt to play games in the post- COVID-19 environment. There is no way of knowing just yet if something similar will happen in the other leagues, but this is definitely something to learn from.
Should they have even tried to play this season?
Many are already second guessing the fact that there is even a season at all. Unlike the NBA and NHL, no games had been played and the league could have simply just decided not to even have a 2020 season. When it was announced, there were a few changes made like the inclusion of the Designated Hitter in the National League that were hit with mixed reactions, while the 60 game season is unprecedented. Then there is the controversial automatic runner on 2nd base rule that is now being implemented in Extra Innings. The winner of the World Series will inevitably not get the same kind of respect as the champion from a normal season.
But this is all forgetting that for a few days, everything seemed to be somewhat back to a strange version of normal. The thrill of the home run, crack of the bat, and scream of the almost too real artificial crowd was there to help us forget all of the horror of coronavirus.
Hopefully the MLB season can recover from this all too soon scare and avoid anything similar to this happening again. For now, the MLB will play ball, but it now has one strike.