An unprecedented situation is currently wreaking havoc across the sports world. The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has literally, as of this moment, put all major sporting events on permanent hold. This Covid-19 impact is being felt, not just here in the United States, but across the entire world.
It can be argued that canceling Spring Training would not be that big of a deal. Sure, teams with pitching rotation questions or fringe players on the brink of making it to the show would be consequentially affected, but, as far as fans go, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The games themselves are of little consequence and, when starters do participate, it is usually only for an inning or two and then it’s back to street clothes for them.
What does matter, however, is Opening Day. Opening Day in baseball has become part of American culture. So much so, that a petition is floated around every year to make MLB Opening Day a national holiday. Opening Day has already had to be pushed back, so, there will be major side-effects.
First off, let’s say that Opening Day is pushed back by only a few weeks. Teams could potentially be forced to play a shortened schedule which, in turn, could cause issues between the players and their union for service time issues. Also, the issue of simply adding double-headers wouldn’t be so simple. According to the CBA, MLB has to get approval from the MLBPA to add double-headers to the schedule. The question becomes, what if the MLBPA doesn’t want its players playing potentially double the double-headers they normally do? On top of that, the weather is always a concern and causes delays and schedule changes as well.
There are a lot of questions and concerns with what seems like a simple solution as pushing back opening day.
Currently, MLB is asking its players to stay at their Spring Training facilities where they will have access to medical personnel and can continue to work out. But, players are allowed to leave at their discretion. It’s a natural reaction to want to be home with family, especially with a global epidemic occurring. It’s a lot for MLB to ask that players stay put.
Players do not get paid during Spring Training, they only get paid during their actual seasons. For some players, this is not an issue. Surely guys like Mike Trout, Gerrit Cole and Bryce Harper will have no trouble not getting paid for a few weeks or even a month. But what about minor league guys who are trying to make it? Or players who are not only supporting themselves, but perhaps family back home somewhere other than the United States? Think for a moment about not getting paid for two months and of the financial strain it would put on you and your family. Sure, minor leaguers are getting raises, but it doesn’t help if they can only earn a paycheck from playing.
The issue of players not getting paid during Spring Training is one that should definitely be discussed and rectified in the future.
Not only does the Covid-19 impact MLB but it does impact the college baseball season. The draft is held in June and should the entire college baseball season get canceled this would really affect all the players looking to get drafted.
The Covid-19 impact goes far beyond professional athletes. It greatly impacts the fans. Numerous websites, blogs, twitter accounts, and message boards are having the same fan reaction: ”What are we going to do now?” March and April are two of the most exciting months for the entirety of sports in America. Opening day in baseball, The Masters Tournament in golf and NCAA conference and championship tournaments all fall in the same two months. It speaks volumes as to how much sports impact the daily lives of so many people, MLB opening day especially.
It’s like James Earl Jones said in Field of Dreams: The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball marks the time.
Baseball is a tradition passed on from father to son, mother to daughter. There are a multitude of sports across America, but every child has swung a bat and thrown a ball. Everyone, fan or not, knows who Babe Ruth is. Statistics in baseball can be quoted from memory unlike any other sport: 762 home runs, .406 batting average, 27 World Series championships. The names Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Greg Maddux, Derek Jeter, are part of American culture.
Right now, MLB is hoping that its hiatus will only last until the end of the month. That games can be resumed and a sense of normalcy will return to the sports world. All that can be done is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. For the sake of baseball fans all over the world is the hope is the Covid-19 impact will be a short-lived one.
Hopefully, we’ll wake up one day soon and be able to hear one of the most famous phrases in all of sports: Play Ball!