Major League Baseball supposed to be heading out of their winter homes in Florida and Arizona on Thursday to open the gates at their own parks for the start of the regular season.
Players and staff deemed “non-essential” have been told to stay home to try and flatten the curve of the extremely contagious virus.
While facilities are closed and players are at home, decision-makers around the league have continued to discuss contingency plans.
Decisions already made
On Friday, a day after the regular season was supposed to begin, the MLB and the owners agreed to a deal with the players association that would allow players to be partially compensated for the 2020 season.
According to CNBC, the deal includes $170 million to be distributed to the players and options to reformat the season and the amateur draft.
After the deal was reached, there was a public outcry for the minor league players who do not make big money. For many, the postponement of the season has forced players to pick up extra jobs to get by. In response, the MLB announced today that they will continue to pay minor league players through May.
The deal also said that 2020 would count for service time for players, even if no games are played. This means that a player with one year left can become a free agent.
This could mean disaster for a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who went all in for 2020 when they traded for Mookie Betts. Betts is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and could sign with another team without ever suiting up for LA.
Payment has been figured out for players, but there are still a lot of decisions to be made.
"I also think that we need to be creative in terms of what the schedule looks like, what the postseason format looks like."
— ESPN (@espn) March 26, 2020
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said that it is his goal to play as many regular season games as possible in 2020 and all options are on the table. So what are some of those options?
Seven Inning Games?
One option that has been floating around is to condense games to seven innings. First brought up by Ross Atkins, the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, the plan would be to play doubleheaders with seven innings in order not to overtax the players.
Some personalities around baseball have expressed support for the plan, including Yankees manager Aaron Boone. Boone added that the increase in games could make sense, but teams should be allowed to carry more players on their regular season roster than the 26 it is now.
Games through Christmas
With the season being postponed to the middle of May as of today and game 7 of the World Series scheduled for October 28, some have pitched keeping the schedule similar and just push the season back.
If the month and a half is lost on the front and added to the back, then the revised schedule would have the world series being played in December.
The plan, originally pitched by Scott Boras, who negotiated over $1 billion in baseball contracts over the offseason, would include a normal regular season and playoffs at neutral site stadiums in warmer climates.
Boras has pitched a neutral site world series before. He said that it would give sponsors and fans a chance to buy tickets and advertising early, much like the super bowl.
“I think having a planned World Series at a designated site would be a tremendous economic gain for our industry,” Boras said. “You could secure corporate sponsorships and have entertainment surrounding it. The Super Bowl has one game. Here, we can have five to seven days of festivities.”
According to Boras, the cities that would host the neutral site games are Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Diego, Miami, Seattle, Arizona, Milwaukee, Toronto, Houston, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Arlington, Texas.
Baseball is one of, if not the most, traditional of all sports in the United States. The traditionalists around the game are not all on board with such radical changes.
One of those purists is Mark Teixeira, who went on record against the seven inning games and more doubleheaders. However, he did express support for Boras’ idea of extending the season on ESPN’s “Get Up” today.
When will we know?
The short answer on when decisions will be finalized is that nobody knows.
So many factors come into play, starting with when the virus is contained enough for sports to resume. Add in the complexities with television deals, sponsorship deals and the health and safety of the players, and the waters get a little murkier.
For now, all we can do is ride out this virus by following the directions of knowledgeable people so we can get regular-season baseball back.