We should be awakening this Saturday to a full slate of Spring Training games, and looking forward to the 2020 regular season beginning in just 12 days.
Instead, baseball, other sports and life in general are in a weird limbo. Still, even after MLB officially suspended spring training Friday and postponed the regular season for “at least” two weeks, this was still a question being asked:
MLB still is hoping to play 162 games, playing the postponed games at the back end of the schedule, but obviously subject to change.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 13, 2020
So let’s say the disruption was only two weeks, and the regular season began on or about April 10. That would wipe 13 games off the Cubs’ schedule, which could theoretically be made up in two weeks’ time tacked on to the end of the regular season, which is currently scheduled to end September 27.
That would push the end of the 2020 regular season back to October 11, and the World Series, which currently is scheduled to have a Game 7 (if necessary) October 28, could go to November 11.
Well. That’s doable, but just barely, I’d say. The average high temperature in Chicago on November 11 is 51, the low 40. Baseball’s been played in those conditions in Chicago in April many times — generally, October and early November weather is nicer than April, as we have found out the last two years.
But this is only if the delay is two weeks. It seems likely to be longer, especially given the recent announcement by Chicago and Illinois officials that they don’t want any pro sports to be played in the state until at least May 1.
Further, even when the “all clear” is given to resume baseball activities, you’d think the Cubs and other teams would need at least a couple of weeks to get back in game shape.
So we’re likely looking at May 1 at the earliest to begin the 2020 baseball season. Well, now we’re talking about 31 Cubs games, and probably around the same for most MLB teams. You can’t tack a month’s worth of games onto the end of the season — we’d be having the World Series at Thanksgiving. Or, as Josh noted Friday:
I'm looking forward to watching that Twins/Cubs World Series over Christmas Break this upcoming winter.— Josh Timmers (@Cubsminorswrap) March 13, 2020
So there’s almost no doubt that the 2020 MLB season is going to be reduced from 162 games. How much reduction that will be is still unknown. 140 games? 130? We won’t know until much, much later. Joel Sherman, in the New York Post, echoed all of this:
MLB does not know at what date it will receive clearance to return to action from medical personnel. The longer there are no formal full-team workouts, the longer a second spring training will have to be when players return. At this point, MLB would sign up to be playing regular season games on May 1.
The league also recommended that teams send home their minor league players — those who are not on 40-man rosters are not part of the Players Association. Most teams have complexes at which major and minor league spring trainings are held simultaneously.
I feel especially badly for the guys not on 40-man rosters — those are the players making the least amount of money playing the game we all love. Here’s an example of what guys like that are going through:
Example of what a perfect storm this is: NL minor leaguer said he’s already trying to find a job back home in California, but due to the high alerts from #coronavirus, “it’s almost impossible to find a job right now.”— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) March 14, 2020
For now, players are being given these guidelines:
Official memo from union says this:— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 13, 2020
1. Players will be permitted to stay in the area of the Spring Training facility
2. Players will be permitted to travel to the Club’s home city
3. Players will be permitted to travel to their off-season home (or other location)
Here’s what Cubs players and staff are doing:
Have heard that most Cubs players will be remaining in Arizona for the time being. At end of month, could relocate to Chicago/Wrigley for training. Makes sense, since some players have spring housing expiring at end of month.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 13, 2020
Theo says David Ross and the Cubs' coaches will head home "for the most part." Will have a "skeleton crew" on site, similar to how things are in January for players.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 14, 2020
Theo: Cubs did a "deep clean" at the Mesa complex today. Team will take "appropriate steps" to clean Wrigley Field before players arrive there.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 14, 2020
And this is perhaps the most important note:
Theo: Players who choose to go home would likely have to go through a "medical protocol" if they want to return to Arizona before Spring Training officially resumes.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 14, 2020
Most other teams appear to be following similar protocols:
Multiple Major League Baseball teams have started allowing players to go home, sources tell ESPN. Some will stay in Arizona. Others will go to their teams' cities. Others will just go home. Unclear when they'll return, though MLB will need a ramp-up period before it starts games.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 13, 2020
This doesn’t just affect baseball players, obviously. Every human on Earth is affected by the novel coronavirus in some way. Schools, theaters and other gatherings of people are being suspended to provide “social distance,” something that will hopefully slow the spread of the virus and allow normal, everyday life to resume more quickly than it might have otherwise. Let’s hope that’s the case, not just for baseball or sports, but for everything that makes life on this planet what it is. Things in general are going to be different for a while. I went to a supermarket today at 5:30 a.m. to try to beat the weekend rush. It was surprisingly busy for that hour of the morning, and many things were picked over (especially in the produce department), though store employees were re-stocking some areas while I was there. I can only imagine what that store will look like around midday.
One thing that should be noted regarding the resumption of MLB activities this year:
With a national state of emergency now declared, the commissioner can now suspend contracts while games aren’t being played, per the uniform players’ contract.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) March 13, 2020
That’s covered in the MLB/MLBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement as well. The CBA says:
This contract is subject to federal or state legislation, regulations, executive or other official orders or other governmental action, now or hereafter in effect respecting military, naval, air or other governmental service, which may directly or indirectly affect the Player, Club or the League and subject also to the right of the Commissioner to suspend the operation of this contract during any national emergency during which Major League Baseball is not played.
The last part of this applies now — we are officially in a national emergency and Major League Baseball is not being played. It seems likely that owners are going to attempt to pro-rate contracts depending on how many games are finally played in 2020. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the CBA which would pro-rate the competitive balance tax, better known as the “luxury tax.” Could this be a way for the Cubs to get under it?
That’s all for later, though, and we don’t know exactly when. Again, the other BCB writers and I intend to provide lots of Cubs and baseball-related content here throughout this stoppage of the game we all love. Stick around, because we all should stick together now more than ever. And if you don’t believe me, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the same thing Friday:
“We’re all in this together,” Epstein said. “It’s time for us to make collective sacrifices to have each other’s back, and to try to minimize the suffering, and to try to eventually return to normal as quickly as possible.
“But it probably won’t be all somewhat back to normal before we can put it in proper perspective and fully processed.”
He’s right. In a small way, we can do that right here at BCB — having each other’s back. Hang in there and things will hopefully be back to normal sooner rather than later.