MLB FAQ: How Is Coronavirus Affecting Plans?

We know the start of the season will be delayed, but what's still realistic?

Bruce Levine
March 25, 2020 - 10:38 am
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(670 The Score) There has been a professional baseball season held every year in our country dating back to 1871, when the since-defunct National Association began. It was in 1876 that the National League started play.

Even amid wars and epidemics, baseball has been played, representing our American continuity and resiliency during tough times. We're in another trying time now amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the MLB season and activities are currently on hold, the hope and plan is for baseball to return in 2020 when the experts determine it's safe to do so. As we wait, let's break down where we stand and address some of the most frequently asked questions.

What's known as fact right now?

The start of the 2020 season has been delayed. In the latest official update, the league announced on March 16 that Opening Day has been pushed back to mid-May at the earliest. It will likely be past that. The goal of the league and the players is to get back to return to action as soon as possible and play as many games on the schedule as they can.

Are spring training facilities open?

There are no organized activities allowed in any of the Florida or Arizona camps. That means no supervision from the team is allowed -- no instructors or coaches can take part in players' individual work and conditioning.

The doors to the facilities are open, as players who were rehabbing injuries can still continue that work. Social distancing is being encouraging in all situations. Some workouts have been staggered for players who go in regularly.

After spring training was halted, the message from MLB to players was to go to the location you feel most comfortable -- because that's where you'll be for awhile. The league and union have told players to follow the opinion of experts on how to stay healthy.

Where are the players at right now?

Most of them are back home in the cities they live in. Many of them left their spring training sites last week. Some players are working out in really small groups. They're heeding the advice of the authorities in the states and cities they live in.

How long will players need to get ready for the start of the regular season?

Baseball's last work stoppage came in 1995, and players took about three weeks to get ready. That was without any spring training due to the strike. 

This time, players will need two to three weeks to return to game action in the current situation, a source said.

So how long will the regular season be?

It's unclear. There won't be a 162-game regular season. The feeling across the industry is that if teams get clearance to get back to preparing in May, 125-plus games remains realistic, sources said. 

Of course, any plan will also depend on federal, state and city ordinances and policies regarding group gatherings.

How does this pause affect the players' salaries?

That's being negotiated in daily calls between the league and players' union. Normally, players begin getting paid on April 1 for the first week of the season and then receive payment twice a month until the last week of the regular schedule is completed.

The collective bargaining agreement allows player contracts to be put on suspension by the commissioner in the event of a national emergency, sources said. Without television, advertising and ticket revenue, owners may have to scramble to pay millions without games taking place. Compensation for games lost and how to pay players is the focus of ongoing talks.

Service time for players and the status of the amateur draft -- which takes place in early June -- are other subjects being discussed at length by the two sides.

Will fans be allowed to attend games when they start back up?

That's also unclear. At this time, it's hard to imagine filling stadiums with tens of thousands of people when games initially return, given the current ban on gatherings of 10 or more people across the country now. But it's all conjecture right now. That will be determined in the months ahead.

If fans aren't allowed, it figures to harm smaller-market clubs more. Their television revenue is typically less, so they depend more on ticket revenue and merchandise sold at the ballpark.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.