On the heels of the NBA and NHL suspending their season on Wednesday, Major League Baseball decided on Thursday to delay opening day of the 2020 regular season for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The league also announced that all spring training games have been suspended, a decision made between MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and franchise owners during a conference call yesterday morning. During the call, the parties formalized the optimistic plan to freeze the season and hope that the crisis subsides in order to hold games in empty stadiums.
“MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope or resuming normal operations as soon as possible,” Major League Baseball said in the statement used to delay the opening of the 2020 campaign.
The announcement came down while teams were playing spring training games in Florida. MLB joins the NBA, NHL, MLS, and the NCAA college basketball tournaments in either suspending or canceling their upcoming events because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The baseball season was to begin on March 26th, and the two-week delay has placed April 9th as the tentative date for baseball to resume, although some owners have been vocally skeptical that normalcy can return in the short timeframe.
New York Yankee slugger Giancarlo Stanton said, “It’s unfortunate but I think it’s the proper measure we need to take now given the situation the countries and in the world in. It’s important to know that some things are bigger than baseball, bigger than sports at the moment. Once we’re able to hopefully get a hold on some things and get some questions answered we can figure out when things can continue.”
The decision to delay the season was expected after the reveal that NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing commissioner Adam Silver to suspend the season. On Thursday, Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive as well, underlining how easily the virus is to transmit to others.
The minor league season was also suspended on Thursday as well as the Olympic qualifying tournament set for this month in Arizona and qualifying for the World Baseball Classic, scheduled to be held next year.
The delay is baseball’s first missed Opening Day since the 1994 strike wiped out the World Series of that season and the following start to the 1995 year. That season, baseball started on April 26th and played just 144 games.
Even if baseball is ready to go on April 9th, state governments have asked teams to hit the brakes on their plans. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has suggested to teams that they not schedule games before May 1st unless there is no spectators in the interest of public health.
With the delay, MLB players will not get paid during the hiatus due to the coronavirus being labeled as a national emergency.
Major League players only get paid twice per month during the regular season as they do not get paid during spring training.
In 1995, the players and owners missed opening day due to a strike that ended the 1994 World Series.
If the league cannot start on time, then the tentative plan is to start the season wherever opening day lands on the calendar.
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