While an official start date to the 2020 baseball season has not yet been set, Ken Rosenthal (The Athletic, paid link) wrote on Tuesday that Major League Baseball is inching closer to an abbreviated season — one that is subject to frequent abbreviations, and without fans in attendance.
Per Rosenthal and according to sources, officials from at least one team, the Indians, gave their players a “mark in the sand” Tuesday for Opening Day — July 1, the same date former Twin and Ray Trevor Plouffe had mentioned in a tweet Monday.
Indians officials, on a Zoom call that included about 70 members of the organization, estimated the season would begin after a three-week ramp-up, putting the start of Spring Training 2.0 around June 10, another date Plouffe specified. But the officials made it clear the dates were mere targets, fully expected to change. They simply wanted players to be prepared if the league meets all of the logistical challenges necessary to play.— Ken Rosenthal
Yet, nothing is certain.
Baseball officials are confident a 2020 campaign will happen, although the possibility of further COVID-19 flareups in states starting to open up, such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona, could lead to additional shutdowns, making it difficult for baseball to resume.
According to sources, the league would like to open in as many home cities and in as many home parks as possible. As Rosenthal notes, playing at home, even without fans, also would be a sign of normalcy returning in those cities, an idea that appeals to many politicians as well as league officials.
Yet, and again, everything is contingent upon the spread of the virus, which is not even close to being as under control as it is in South Korea, where the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) began play Monday night.
The MLB’s proposal is expected to be presented to the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) by early next week and perhaps before the weekend, writes Joel Sherman (New York Post, link). That proposal is expected to include a pay scale, although the MLBPA “almost certainly will reject” the terms put forth by the league. Even so, the league is laying the groundwork for a best-case scenario so that if it comes together, the wheels can be in motion. Conversely, and if not, that groundwork can be applied to something further down the road.
Still, as Rosenthal points out, the next three weeks will be critical for baseball.
If the virus erupts in enough places, the league might need to rethink any possibility of starting spring training in early June and the season in early July. The threat of a second wave of COVID-19 hitting in the fall might leave the sport even less room to maneuver.— Ken Rosenthal
Any hope of a 2020 campaign will also depend upon the availability of testing. Ballclub staff, including players, will need to undergo regular tests and routine temperature checks to ensure the infection of one team member does not require an entire club to stop play. For context, KBO players have their temperature checked twice daily among other things. If the development of COVID-19 treatments continues to trend in the right direction, thus reducing the health risks, the sport might push forward with an abbreviated season and adjust from there.
And adjustments will need to be made.
Say, for example, the Reds begin the season at home but after a month the virus flares up in Cincinnati. The state of Ohio might enact strict stay-at-home measures, and the league might need to relocate the team to its spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. Travel plans would be disrupted. Broadcast capabilities are more limited in spring training facilities than they are in major-league parks. But those are the types of inconveniences that the sport will need to tolerate if it wants to have a season.
“If everyone is expecting baseball to look like and feel like and be the way it’s been over the past 10 years, it’s going to be really hard to get through the season,” one executive said. “If teams and players are willing to be flexible and adaptive, that gives us the best chance to get through.
“We have to be prepared for postponed and canceled games, and not have the expectation we’re going to get every single game in. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. Hopefully we get back playing and it’s smooth sailing to play the way we expect. But hope isn’t a good plan.
“The reality is, we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next five months. I would guess there are things that aren’t going to go the way we planned. Our ability to adapt is going to be really important.”— Ken Rosenthal
None of this speaks to the potential to the economic dispute between players and owners.
The players union already agreed to prorate salaries, yet the league does not agree, saying further adjustments would be necessary because the teams would spend more on salaries than they would earn in revenue in games without fans.
The union disputes that characterization, saying the language regarding players receiving prorated salaries in the event of a partial season does not distinguish between games with or without fans. It should also be noted that teams draw significant income from television and media rights.
When all is said and done, both the owners and the MLBPA will need to build on the premise that a return in any form is better than a canceled season.
…And so it goes. At least you can stream KBO baseball on ESPN!
— The Tampa Bay Rays recently posted an update regarding ticket refunds for the 2020 season. You can read that update below:
With the games originally scheduled to be played in March, April, and May impacted by COVID-19, Rays Season Ticket Holders will receive an account credit that can be used toward any future payment plans, 2020 postseason tickets, or rolled over to your 2021 season ticket renewal. You will also receive a 25% bonus to spend on concessions and merchandise at Tropicana Field during the 2020 or 2021 seasons. This bonus will be made available through the free MLB Ballpark app prior to the rescheduled start of the season (date TBD).
If you prefer to request a refund for these games, please email your name and account number to firstname.lastname@example.org, and allow up to four weeks for the refund to be processed. Refunds will be issued to the original method of payment. All refund requests must be received by May 31, 2020.
The Rays have created a website to host all updates on the 2020 season. Fans are encouraged to visit raysbaseball.com/update as we work with Major League Baseball during this time. Stay safe and socially distant!
If you have any questions, email email@example.com.— Tampa Bay Rays