This is the latest installment of a daily series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.
On what was supposed to the Opening Day of the Major League Baseball regular season, fields will remain empty across the United States in an effort to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Death totals continued to climb worldwide Wednesday, with CNN reporting over 21,000 global fatalities from the virus as that number passed 1,000 for the first time in the United States. Exact numbers remain elusive as testing continues to expand. Last night, the U.S. Senate approved a $2.2 trillion stimulus package in response to the economic fallout.
The deepest cultural impact of the virus in the baseball world will be felt by players and fans today, when the 2020 season was supposed to have gotten underway. Questions remain on how a potential season could look and few exact answers are available.
ESPN Asked Rob Manfred: When Does He See Baseball Returning?
Rob Manfred, asked on ESPN what he _hopes_ could happen from here: “My optimistic outlook is that at some point in May we’ll be gearing back up. We’ll have to make a determination depending on what the precise date is as to how much of a preparation period we need."
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) March 26, 2020
While no one will guarantee an official end date for the countermeasures to the coronavirus (quite reasonably!), the commissioner took his best shot while talking with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt late Wednesday night, saying his most “optimistic outlook” was that the sport could be back by May, though a 162-game season is likely out of the question. Manfred stated that “nothing’s off the table” as far as a solution, indicating that he will get to do his favorite thing in the days to come: tinker with the sport in order to determine a solution.
Jeff Passan listed several of the scenarios that Manfred suggested, including more doubleheaders on the schedule with games only going seven innings, and World Series games being held only in neutral cities with warmer climates to allow for baseball to be played later into the fall. Jayson Stark theorized on what a season would even look like, given the circumstances.
Red Sox Report Delayed
With the league focused on COVID-19 updates, other league business has been shelved for the time being, including the investigation into the Red Sox regarding electronic sign stealing.
In the same ESPN interview, Rob Manfred said that he and the league “frankly have not had time to turn to” the matter, but will have a report out before baseball begins, whenever that may be. The Red Sox have denied the charges of electronic sign stealing, and without a whistleblower or video footage – and with attention turned elsewhere – it seems improbable that Boston faces as severe a punishment as the Astros.
Newest Version of MLB Player Proposal
The ongoing negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA in regards to the possible 2020 season got an update late Wednesday afternoon, according to Ken Rosenthal.
The most recent deal includes components such as the draft being held later in the calendar year than its current June date, and players receiving the same service time they got in 2019, should the season be canceled. The deal isn’t great for rookies who would have made their major league debuts in 2020, who in this version of the deal would now receive no service time.
What to Do on Opening Day
Former MLB pitcher Dan Haren has been philanthropically active throughout the pandemic, and is now auctioning off his bobblehead collection in order to raise further money for charity. Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies and Miguel Rojas of the Marlins will play each other in MLB: The Show at 4:10 p.m., the original scheduled start time of the Phillies and Marlins’ Opening Day game. One writer called 92-year-old Vin Scully just to hear his voice.
With no 2020 games on the schedule, a guide to the reruns of your favorite games has been provided, because today is for baseball.
And MLB is hosting Opening Day At Home, broadcasting past Opening Day games, as well as a few regular season and postseason games of special significance, across its various media platforms. There are 35 games in all:
Tomorrow MLB presents #OpeningDayAtHome – a full slate of 30 games nationally available across various platforms, including digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. pic.twitter.com/NGd39zk883
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) March 25, 2020
Justin is a contributor to FanGraphs and a contributor to Baseball Prospectus. He is known in his family for jamming free hot dogs in his pockets during an off-season tour of Veterans Stadium and eating them on the car ride home.