From almost the moment that MLB announced that Opening Day would be pushed back by two weeks, it has seemed like only a matter of time until things were postponed even farther. As schools and libraries have closed, as many workplaces have gone to work-from-home mode, and even bars, gyms, and casinos have been ordered closed by the state of Maryland, none of these things pointed to resumption of normal activity by April 9.
MLB made it official on Monday afternoon that the beginning of the 2020 season would take place even later, releasing this public statement:
Following last night’s newly updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, the opening of the 2020 regular season will be pushed back in accordance with that guidance.
MLB will keep fans updated on decisions regarding plans for the 2020 season in the days and weeks ahead. The Clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible when the season begins.
You can do the math there: There will not be any regular season baseball until mid-May at the earliest, and even that date depends on how efforts to control the spread of coronavirus in America end up working out. The first signs suggest that not all individuals are equally committed to social distancing measures that could make a huge impact.
An extended postponement of the baseball season brings up a variety of issues that are insignificant in the face of a public health crisis but will be important eventually when things are back to normal and baseball is happening again.
Another seemingly inevitable postponement is the June draft. The kinds of events that would have helped teams make decisions - that is, college and high school games - are almost entirely on hold. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, MLB is banning all scouting in this period to ensure that no team takes risks with its personnel in order to get an edge.
There are also concerns to be resolved about roster placement as spring training has been put on hold. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported on an MLBPA memo that went out to agents on Monday regarding a variety of issues, including a still-to-be-negotiated question about what is to be done regarding opt-out clauses for veterans who were non-roster invites.
It doesn’t do a guy much good if he has a March 20 opt-out if the baseball season is no longer starting on March 26. Perhaps the league and the players will be able to come to an agreement on this and other issues so that players do not bear the brunt of the season’s postponement. With at least a couple of the Orioles non-roster invitees looking like they were in competition for spots on the Opening Day roster, this will be a relevant concern for our favorite baseball team, eventually.
There will probably be thorny discussions about how service time will be counted if there is only a partial season, but for now MLB is trying to preserve the idea of playing a 162 game season.
For now, prepare to be without big league baseball for at least another eight weeks.