The Challenges MLB Face Due to COVID-19

Major League Baseball finds itself in an impossible situation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was announced that Spring training would be suspended for the time being, but that is the smallest of baseball’s problems.

The regular season was scheduled to kickoff March 26th, but is now in question. With the cancellation of spring training, the players lose necessary games to build up their strength and fitness. So even if the virus is under control by the end of March, which is unlikely, the MLB can not just jump into regular season games.

The players will need an extended spring training, likely one of 2-3 weeks. So the best case scenario would be the start of the season coming around the end of April. For other sports it is not an issue suspending games because they are played in doors. The NBA and NHL can crown a champion in a heat wave or a snowstorm.

Well baseball does not have that privilege. Majority of baseball stadiums are not domes, so weather will be a factor if the season gets delayed too long. MLB can’t afford for their to be a World Series game being played in Yankees Stadium in December with snow on the field. So they have to face some serious questions in the coming weeks.

Play in Empty Stadiums?

There is a real thought of the MLB season starting close to the scheduled date with the games being played in empty stadiums. It has been discussed as a way to keep the season on track to end in October as usual. But is it an acceptable answer to this crisis?

Much like if the NCAA would have went this route, it would be a bad optic if MLB games were being played in front of 50,000 empty seats, while the rest of the world is in a panic. The constant travel from city to city would be putting players at risk of attracting COVID-19. These players have kids and families that they can not put at risk as well. I don’t see how the MLB would be able to swing the narrative that playing during this time is a good idea.

Relocating Games to “Safe” Zones?

Beyond the narrative, there are cities like Seattle, that are not physically safe to travel and play sporting events at. As a result the Mariners looked into moving their early season home games to their spring training facility in Arizona. But again is this a viable option?

The rapid spread of the virus makes it impossible to know what areas will be safe and for how long. It would defeat the purpose of moving game locations entirely. At this point no city is safe from COVID-19.

Shorten the 162 Game Season?

Considering there has been a precedent of playing a shortened season, due to work stoppages, shortening the season is the most viable option. The most recent occurrence was in 1995 when the season started in late April and teams played just 144 games.

Ideally owners and players want to play all 162 games for economic reasons, but nothing about this situation is ideal. It’s a long season anyway, so why not cut out a few weeks of the schedule so the playoffs go unaffected. It feels like the most logical and doable option at this point.



Leave a Reply