Once virtually all sports were shut down on Wednesday and Thursday last week due to the ever-changing coronavirus outbreak, everyone had one question on their mind: When are we going to be playing games again?
Well we don’t know the exact answer to that question, but there are feelings that your starting point on a good guess would be at least May 1st.
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) March 13, 2020
If MLB officials’ conservative guess of May 1st as the start of the regular season turns out to be true– who knows if that has even a slight chance of being correct at this point in mid-March– then there should be a whole slew of questions that baseball fans should be asking themselves.
Do you immediately launch into the regular season?
One would hope the answer is yes, as everyone is going to be so starved for sports to start back up again that making us wait even longer for meaningful baseball would be quite cruel. However, it might be necessary.
Depending on how the spread/contained the virus is over the next few weeks, maybe May 1st ends up being the date of the first regular season games after teams have been permitted to workout together for a week or two before that in order to get back into baseball shape. Maybe May 1st ends up being the first date teams are officially allowed to meet back up again after an extended period of needing to be separate from each other. Would that make the middle of May a more realistic start for the regular season?
Do all 162 games get played after a delayed start to the season?
As of now, important figures around baseball are tying to put up the front that we’ll still get a full regular season no matter when it starts. Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said on Friday, “As it relates to the games on the front, the current thinking at Major League Baseball is that they would be added on to the back end of the schedule.”
That seems ambitious and like a bad business decision to me.
If baseball starts at the beginning of May and still plays a full season, that would mean their regular season would go from ending at the end of September under normal circumstances to ending sometime in early November and then the postseason taking up the entirety of November and possibly into early December.
You know what that means? More of its schedule directly overlapping football season. That is going to be bad for TV ratings and it’s going to be bad for attendance. Normally, just September overlaps regular season NFL for all of the league and then the postseason overlaps for a few teams in October. They’re also only overlapping the front end of the NFL regular season.
More of the baseball calendar is going to be during the school year than usual and that is a crutch teams always use for lower attendance numbers. Who even knows what the school calendar will be during the summer if so many districts across the country are closing their schools now. It’s all a big mess with an undetermined end.
However this season goes, how does it impact the schedule of the 2021 season?
I do think that some form of the Major League Baseball season will happen this year. I can’t say for sure that the NBA and NHL seasons will get to finish. By the time they’re cleared to continue, it might be so far into the summer that it would already be time to get ready for the 2020-2021 seasons on their calendars. Baseball will benefit from the fact that they were yet to start playing regular season games when this delay started.
As stated already, whenever it does start back up again, it will push the entire calendar back. If this is the case, does it lead to a shortened offseason next winter in order to start 2021 spring training on time? If the start of spring training is pushed back to allow the normal-length offseason, does the 2021 schedule shorten so that the players don’t have to have less off days? Seems unlikely to be agreed to by the owners, but it is something both sides will have to figure out.
It doesn’t seem likely that in this day and age where we know we shouldn’t push athletes too hard that we’d eliminate off days to make sure the calendar eventually gets back to normal.
Whatever ends up happening, there are many, many ripple effects to the delay of the start of the season.
It was absolutely the right thing to do, considering the dangerous virus that is consuming the world at the moment, but the baseball world will not be immune to its long-term impact that will still be felt a year from now.
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