On Thursday, Major League Baseball officially halted on-field operations as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. Per an announcement this afternoon, Spring Training has been suspended, while the start of the regular season will be delayed by at least two weeks.
Major League Baseball’s full statement follows:
Following a call with the 30 Clubs, and after consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. today announced that MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic. This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans.
MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season. Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to Clubs in the coming days. As of 4:00 p.m. (ET) today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been cancelled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona have been postponed indefinitely.
MLB and the Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.
Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.
Some teams are temporarily keeping their facilities open so players can take part in non-mandatory workouts. Yet, due to the nature of this fluid situation, it remains to be seen how long camps will remain open.
As Mark Polishuk (MLB Trade Rumors) writes, a delay beyond April 9 could result in a shorter season.
Should the halt in activities last far beyond April 9, a full 162-game season may not be feasible, unless the league was open to pushing the postseason fairly deep into November. At this point, MLB’s “variety of contingency plans” surely involves scenarios for a shortened season, perhaps akin to the 144-game 1995 season that didn’t begin until April 25 due to the players’ strike.— Mark Polishuk
Rays players, coaches, and executives agree that while odd, the decision is the right one. Rays manager Kevin Cash called the day surreal as rumors swirled that play would be suspended throughout the day.
It was very odd, knowing that this most likely was going to happen. To what extent we didn’t know, but it was a very odd day at the ballpark.— Kevin Cash
When asked if it was disappointing to have the 2020 season put on pause, Cash said that is not his focus at the moment.
That’s very much secondary, back burner to what’s taken place right now in the world. Our season will be played when it’s time.— Kevin Cash
Rays general manager Erik Neander said Friday will essentially be an off day. The players will meet at 10:00 am, after which they will leave the facility in Port Charlotte in hopes of eventually knowing more about a plan moving forward.
Clarity, however, is not guaranteed.
Right now we’re not in a position to be prepared with any sort of confidence to speak to what we’re going to be doing, three, four, five, six, seven days from now. I think just out of respect for the little that we know and how this has evolved it has to be very much a day-to-day consideration.— Erik Neander
The team released the following statement agreeing with the league’s decision to suspend both Spring Training and the regular season.
Today, Major League Baseball announced the suspension of the remainder of spring training and the delay of the 2020 regular season. The health and safety of our staff, players, fans and the entire Tampa Bay community is of the utmost importance to us, and we fully support this decision.
The Rays will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with local and state authorities, as well as our partners in MLB as this situation evolves. As soon as information becomes available regarding the start of the 2020 season, including ticketing information, we will make additional announcements. We appreciate your patience as we all manage the impacts of COVID-19.
X-Rays Spex is committed to keeping you updated on the situation as it evolves. Keep checking back. With this in mind, staying informed is critical, and what follows are some important links that are worth your while.
— Not into what could be construed as over-sensationalized news of the pandemic? Your first stop should be the Florida Department of Health’s Covid-19 information website, which is regularly updated.
— The Washington Post has a visual illustration of how diseases spread