NEW YORK – It still is a question of when and not if, though it seems as if the return of Major League Baseball won’t be happening anytime in the coming weeks.
With the CDC’s recommendation of eight weeks without gatherings of 50 or more back in March, mid-May would seem the earliest teams might be able to get a modified spring training going. Games, with or without fans, wouldn’t follow for a few weeks after that.
But when the time comes to decide whether to play or not, it appears that both the MLB and the MLBPA have a way to come to an agreement on how to decide if it’s safe.
Per Jeff Passan of ESPN, there are three conditions that must be in place for the games to start. First that there are no bans on mass gatherings, as there is now until May, with the stipulation that neutral sites could be used if the commissioner’s office feels it’s appropriate.
The second would be no travel restrictions in the United States or Canada, and third is medical experts declaring that there are no risks for fans of players at stadiums. With that last stipulation, the league and union could at some point revisit the idea that games could be played with no fans.
With these provisions, according to Passan, the league could push the finish of the season towards the end of the calendar year, even as late as Christmas. A few doubleheaders are likely to be played to get in as much of the 162-game season as possible.
On Wednesday, the MLB and players reportedly agreed to a deal that would help players not lose service time if the entire season was canceled. In exchange, the union agreed not to sue the MLB if they don’t get full salaries if the season is completely wiped out.
This is the first time a season has had a delay to start since the 1995 season, when it began in late April due to the 1994 player’s strike dragging into spring training. That year, the league played a condensed 144-game schedule.
Opening Day around the league was scheduled for Thursday, as the White Sox were slated to open at home against the Royals and the Cubs in Milwaukee.