Per the agreement reached Thursday and ratified by owners Friday, the players union will have final approval over the schedule for the 2020 season. There’s still a whole lot of time between now and the most optimistic start date in June, but both sides remain committed to playing as many games as possible. That means meeting a series of conditions, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted Friday.
In order for the season to resume, it is understood that there can be no travel restrictions in place and that medical experts have given the green light. More importantly, bans on mass gatherings will have to be lifted. Current CDC guidance on limiting groups of 50 or more is currently set to expire in the second week of May, but Illinois has banned large events prior to June 1.
The players and league agreed the 2020 MLB season won't begin until:
– There are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans*
– There are no travel restrictions
– Medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 27, 2020
You may have noticed the asterisk in Passan’s tweet, and it’s pretty important in this case. There’s a point at which some pretty big concessions may have to be made in the interest of playing games, even if it means owners losing out on revenue from actual ballpark concessions. That could mean shifting locations and/or going fan-free for a while.
“The caveat agreed to by the players and league is that they will consider playing games at neutral sites instead of home ballparks — and will consider the feasibility of playing in empty stadiums and just how proper a solution it may be for both sides and especially fans,” Passan added in a subsequent tweet.
Such extreme measures are obviously a last resort, largely because no fans means no money, but it’s possible MLB could go that route if it’s the last viable option. For instance, say only Seattle and New York are under restrictions by the time June rolls around and everyone is ready to play again. It’s possible those teams could find other places to play or could hold games in empty stadiums.
That’s a pretty unlikely scenario, but I think we’ve reached the point at which both reality and hope are conspiring to make us consider what would otherwise be unthinkable solutions. Or maybe it’s as simple as utilizing spring training facilities, though Florida isn’t exactly the most likely spot to lead the way in flattening the COVID-19 curve.
It really just comes down to common sense and waiting until they get the all-clear to proceed with the season, which may not come for several weeks if it comes at all. Call me a skeptic, but I think money will be a factor as well. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.