MLB and the San Diego Padres could very much be affected by the coronavirus scare.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COIVD 19 (coronavirus) a global pandemic. Across the World, countries are starting to restrict public gatherings to curb the spread. Twelve states have declared states of emergencies to help fight the disease.
Sporting events are one of the most common public gatherings across the World. It is also a very easy way to spread the disease.
Italy has stopped allowing fans into soccer matches until April 3. The NCAA just declared that only family and essential personnel would be allowed to attend March Madness games. The NBA has now suspended the season after a player reported tested positive for coronavirus. The other day the MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS issued a joint statement stating that media and non-essential personnel will not be allowed in the clubhouse or locker room.
The question now must be asked: “Should the MLB consider delaying the season due to coronavirus?” This would be a dramatic change, especially with Opening Day set to happen later this month. The Seattle Mariners are actively looking for other locations to play their games. This is to comply with Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. Washington is the state hit the hardest so far, but many fear that it will spread rapidly in other states.
What would be the options for teams looking to help prevent the spread of coronavirus while still playing games? The first option is not to allow fans into the game and just have essential personnel there. This has been done once before. On April 29, 2015, the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox played a regular-season game with no fans. At the time, Baltimore was having issues with riots, so MLB officials decided for public safety that they would play the game with no fans. So, until health officials declare public gatherings safe, then teams could play in empty stadiums while their fans watch from home.
Another option is right in front of their eyes. Keep all the teams at their spring training sites and host them there. These provide an abundance of fields to play on. Having all the teams at two sites would help reduce the amount of traveling that would occur, thus decreasing player exposure to the disease. These spring training stadiums are small, so if possible, small crowds could still be present to watch the games.
The final option, which is the most dramatic, is to delay the baseball season. This option brings up a lot of questions that are not easy. If it is delayed, say one month, the virus would still be prominent, and public safety would be a concern (although November baseball is always fun). Teams would have massive logistical problems to tackle with booking flights and hotels. A delay would probably be the best option to help contain the virus. The MLB could go extreme and play a shortened season that would start up once officials declare it safe enough. This option would keep the presence of fans at the game and have a traditional baseball setting.
There are many options in this tough time. The MLB will have to coordinate with ranking health officials to decide the best path to try and keep baseball around while promoting public safety. Given that the NBA has suspended the season, it’s very possible that the MLB considers something similar. A friendly reminder to everyone to wash their hands and avoid touching their face. Be safe.