The NBA and NCAA have already taken decisive action to combat the spread of the coronavirus. With Opening Day in two weeks, MLB will have to act soon.
To this point, Major League Baseball (MLB) hasn’t done much in response to the coronavirus outbreak. With the World Health Organization declaring it to be a pandemic, MLB may be forced to act quickly. The NBA has already suspended play for a minimum of two weeks, while the NCAA is not allowing fans into the stands during its upcoming basketball tournament.
These drastic and decisive steps may force MLB’s hand even more. With Opening Day now just two weeks away, pressure will be mounting on the league to take action, rather than waiting for individual teams and cities to come up with their own policies. Some teams have already been impacted; for example, the Seattle Mariners will be unable to play at home in March, due to the state of Washington’s ban on crowds of over 250 through the end of the month.
San Francisco’s ban on crowds of at least 1,000 people has also forced the suspension of an exhibition game at Oracle Park between the Giants and the Oakland Athletics and could put the team’s April 3 home opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers in jeopardy. The California department of health has recommended a limit on large gatherings through the end of March, which would impact home openers for the Dodgers, Athletics, and San Diego Padres.
This is what we know so far. What we do not know is where the Mariners will play their March home games. Arizona and Texas, which at this point are considered “safer” areas, have been floated out as possibilities; for example, the games could take place at Peoria Sports Complex in Arizona, where the Mariners play spring training games.
We also don’t know what league-wide action there will be, but with the NBA’s announcement on Wednesday and an anticipated NHL announcement soon, it seems that MLB will have to do something. Suspending the start of the season is a possibility, though it will be harder for MLB to make up their games than it is for the other leagues. MLB only has so much time they can add onto the schedule at the end of the year before the weather turns bad; the NBA and NHL don’t have that problem.
At the same time, MLB has one advantage over those other leagues: The majority of their teams play in open-air stadiums, which presumably would make it more difficult to spread the virus than would the indoor stadiums of the NBA and NHL. However, given the current state of affairs, it seems that that would offer little comfort to fans.
Therefore, it seems inevitable that MLB will either suspend the start of the season or move their games to different locations; for example, teams could continue to play in Florida and Arizona spring training sites. That, of course, would limit the number of fans that could attend games and be a huge revenue hit, but the league may deem it to be a necessary step to prevent the spread of a virus of which we still don’t know the full severity.
In any case, expect an announcement sooner rather than later, possibly as soon as today. It will be interesting to see what MLB does, and though it will be a major disappointment should the regular season be impacted, public safety needs to be the number one priority.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.