Major League Baseball held out for as long as they could before announcing that they were suspending Spring Training effective immediately. The announcement on Thursday afternoon also stated that the start of the regular season would be delayed by at least two weeks.
This comes in the wake of the spreading coronavirus that shut down all major professional sports in the span of 24 hours.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred held a conference call with league owners to discuss the plan before announcing that Spring Training was suspended as of 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Games were going on in Florida at the time of the announcement, and those games were allowed to finish.
The league plans to make any schedule adjustments at a later date, and the delay could be much longer than two weeks.
Some teams around baseball had already started to adjust their operations in hopes of keeping their employees safe. Teams around the Major Leagues had started to pull their scouts off of the road, while other teams canceled all travel for all employees.
Minor League Baseball immediately followed with an announcement of their own, announcing that their season opener would be delayed.
The 2020 Major League Baseball season was scheduled to begin on March 26, and all 30 teams were scheduled to play on Opening Day. Several clubs were already looking into the possibility of moving their home games due to being in an area that was hit hard by the coronavirus.
Major League Baseball is hopeful that this delay will be just two weeks long, but it is a fluid situation.
Olympic qualifying for the baseball tournament that was scheduled to take place in Arizona has also been delayed until a later date. The World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament has also been delayed until a later date.
This is the first time that the start of the Major League season has been delayed since the start of the 1995 season. That season was shortened from 162 games to 144 games after a seven-and-a-half-month strike that also saw the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.
The 1995 season didn’t begin until April 26, when it was scheduled to begin on April 2.
The league will continue to monitor the situation in hopes of having some answers in the coming days. There is a chance that Spring Training could be pushed back a month, which would delay the start of the regular season even longer.
There are still other concerns when the league does begin play as some states are not willing to host any large sporting events until at least May 1.
Another huge question that will need to be answered in the coming days is how the league will go about paying their players, and their Minor League players. Major League Baseball owners could also try to reduce salaries that are owed to their players.
There is a provision in the contract that allows for this to happen in national emergencies.
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