MLB Delays Opening Day, Suspends Spring Training | The Ringer MLB Show


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Michael Bowman will not be joining us today because he is traveling home from Spring Training and he will not be the only one traveling home from spring training because spring training is cancelled and healthy announced on Thursday afternoon that it has officially cancelled the rest of spring training schedule and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks and on our last episode that was recorded a day ago and posted more recently than that. Michael and I had a quick conversation about covert nineteen and baseball's seemingly slow response to the pandemic but obviously the situation has changed and we are here to discuss the implications of this news. So obviously it would have been difficult to envision. This happening as recently as a couple of weeks ago but in the past few days it became clear that it was inevitable or at least it became clear to everyone except MLB seemingly so Zach. You've already blocked about this. What is your immediate reaction? Well I think this was as you said inevitable because we've basically seen every other sport take this step already as soon as the NBA. Suspended its season last night after a player was reported to have tested positive. It seemed like everyone else is going to follow suit quickly and we saw that in a bunch of other American sports today the NHL NC double a march madness tournaments a lot of colleges have said they're no longer going to participate in sports this spring but even beyond that. I think it was kind of obvious it was going to get to this point What was notable to me came earlier this week when both the Japanese and Korean Baseball Leagues Announced a delay to their seasons which were as we know kind of timed to win Major League Baseball Opening Day was going to happen so the fact that they already delayed it. Kinda seemed like we were going to get to that point here anyway Mlb was reluctant to do so. Jeff Passan from ESPN reported just last night. That baseball didn't think they would have to make a decision right away. Because they're opening day wasn't scheduled for another two weeks. They would have time to make a decision but I think given how quickly the situation is moving. They didn't actually have that luxury rate. Yeah Michael and I discussed that yesterday that just looking at what was happening elsewhere in the world it was hard to reach the conclusion that it wouldn't happen here but there is kind of a complacency in a sense that wealth. It'll be different here. We will avoid the worst of it and yes. I think it's true that because baseball season was not in full swing yet. There was a little more time to consider things and no baseball player has publicly tested positive. At least that we know of yet and so the pressure was perhaps At a slightly lower pitch for baseball but spring training games were going on in states that obviously have been affected by the virus and that means that people were congregating at these games in a way that goes against the recommendations of most of the experts. And so I think as Michael and I said it. It was starting to see me responsible. That MLP was not doing something about it. And then I think the pressure mounted wants the other sports leagues decided that they were going to suspend it was only a matter of hours until MLB would follow suit and so now we are seeing something that we have not seen since one thousand nine hundred five which is a delayed. Start to the season and sack. I know that you Kinda ran through the the president's not that there are many of them for a delayed start or a shortened schedule. So we're still waiting to see. Obviously it's really impossible to speculate about when baseball will Batak because so much of that depends on the spread of the pandemic and the treatment. And that's something that's very difficult to predict. But what can pass two instances? Tell us about how baseball may handle this. Yeah I think there are very few precedents for this. Basically every recent one whether it was nineteen ninety. Five or nineteen eighty-one Were labor relations when the players and owners just didn't agree and there was a strike or lockout The only other real precedent comes from nineteen eighteen over one hundred years ago when World War One caused. The season tend early They ended on Labor Day that year and displayed the world series like the second week of September To get that in as quickly as possible before more materials were needed for the war effort by. This isn't really the same situation. Obviously I think the nineteen ninety-five example. If baseball able to return in two weeks or by the end of April somewhat. Quickly the nine hundred ninety five example would serve as a useful model that season teams played one hundred forty four game so it was shorter But they were still able to get most of the Games in the world series as normal etc by. Ken Rosenthal reported for the athletic last night. That owners might want to still push for one hundred sixty two games worth revenue. And if they do that then that would require more flexible scheduling whether it's canceling the. All Star game and playing through that week or extending the regular season through October Which would mean the playoffs go to November and then you would need like to play all the World Series Games in a neutral site as a dome because you can't baseball outside in a lot of the country in November so I think this causes a lot of logistical difficulties. Down the line You know if or when baseball can return but I think those logistical difficulties were why or one of the reasons why baseball had to postpone right now because it wasn't just about the responsibility of making sure that people could stay safe although that's obviously hugely important who is also that local and state governments were starting to take the decision out of 'em obese hands Half of the League. I counted fifteen teams play in cities or states that have banned large public gatherings. So that means you wouldn't have been able to play in front of fans and once you get to that point. I don't think it's realistic to have an entire model built that way when opening day current of Ghana scheduled first-place. Yes I in when. Mlb was still sort of in denial about this and was desperately looking for some alternative to postponing the start of the season they were talking about finding neutral sites finding places to play that had not been affected by the virus. But that seemed untenable to begin with. It's optimistic for one thing to imagine that there will be places unaffected or that. Mlb could predict what those places would be weeks in advance. And then obviously you don't want to spread the virus to those places and of course you can potentially play in empty stadiums and just play not in front of fans but then there's a player safety issue to you have a whole network of people who have come together to play baseball games. Even if the thousands of people in the stands are not there and granted. The players are young and healthy and strong in age group. That in theory should not be at the highest risk. But that doesn't mean there at no risk and you can't ask them to put themselves in harm's way for entertainment sake and so we will see whether MLB will just content itself with a shortened schedule. Which again it's happened before a lot of people. Frankly think the baseball season should be shorter anyway. So I guess That that's happening. Maybe whether they wanted or not but if they do decide to play later into the air and and play indoors than that would really require some spinning plates and shuffling pretty quickly to find places to do that so it's really impossible to foresee exactly what will happen now but we do know that nine hundred ninety five. Once it got started it proceeded in an orderly fashion. It was baseball. It looked like a regular season. Obviously with all the baggage that came with the work stoppage and people being upset about that but when baseball does get back it will. It will be back on track. One would expect and I know that You were saying perhaps tongue in cheek that you wish that. The split season from eighty-one would come back. I don't know whether you actually feel that way or not. Because then you get a a two half season and you have to win one half at least qualify for the playoffs and then you have weird situations where people have already qualified for the playoffs in the first half but still have to play the second half and have no motivation to do. Well where you have serious about wanting to see a split season allows just thinking that in my office. I recently received a gift. Which is a book called Split Season? Nineteen eighty-one and I haven't had a chance to open it yet. But I think I'm going to read it now and see what happened. Believe in Nineteen eighty-one like two of the teams with the best records in baseball. Didn't actually qualify for the playoffs because they didn't win either half this situation. I think like speculating about what might happen for. The rest of the season is important but also not where we are right now if you read. Mlb's announcement today. They're just a whole lot of we don't really know what's going on. We'll continue to monitor the situation. That isn't unique to baseball. That's unique to these other sports and these other politicians as well at where we're kind of uncertain what will happen specifically because this is an unprecedented situation. And if you don't have a history to rely on it's harder to act For the future and I think we got the announcement today and they're still some information to trickle out. I think it's a little unclear where players are going to go. In the meantime we might learn that. Some players test positive for instance. But I think we might be in for a bit of a down period after all. This news came over the last few days because at this point what can. Mlb really decided without knowing when they can return what the situation and the country is going to be like let alone in these ballparks and clubhouses rate and obviously they're more pressing in larger concerns than baseball going on. But you are listening to a baseball podcast now. So presumably you do care about when baseball will be back in baseball. Means something to you and that really may determine how soon baseball could resume. Let's say after the situation is contained. If it is hopefully how long lead time you would need to actually start playing. And that may kind of depending on what the players are doing in the interim so there's been a lot of conversation and I think we all probably agree that spring training doesn't necessarily need to be as long as it currently is for players in this era to get into game condition. First of all a lot of them are in game condition year round. They're training their at facilities in the off season on their own. And I think if you said okay. Spring training is going to be a month now. Instead of six weeks and pitchers catchers will report a couple of weeks later and you gave everyone notice that that was the case. I don't think that would be a problem but they didn't do that. They plan for the regular spring training. And so you can't necessarily compress your ramping up for the season into a shorter time especially for pitchers who get their arms into condition granted if the whole league is a little bit behind where it typically is at this point in the euro or whenever they do resume play. Then maybe it's not as big impediment as it is for say a specific player who misses spring training while everyone else was there in his kind of behind. If the whole league is a little bit behind then maybe just sort of evens out as long as you're not actually putting anyone at risk because they haven't prepared to throw a baseball let's say but if the players have to go home or choose to go home because they feel it safer WanNa be with their families then. They won't necessarily have access to training facilities. They won't necessarily be able to throw. Maybe they can stay in shape but they won't be able to work on the baseball skills that they normally would in spring training games or even in scrimmages or SIM games or training facilities. And so that might mean that once. The League wants the country. Sound the all-clear. If that happens at some point then you'd still need to build in. I don't know exactly how long a couple of weeks longer. Because at that point it sorta depends how long they've been inactive and do they then need to work back up to where they are now with alone where they typically are on opening day. I think In one thousand nine hundred five just because we've been using that as an example they basically had Rushed Spring Training period once. They resolved strike In advance of the regular season starting and then I think teams were allowed three extra players on the roster for the first few weeks Presumably because pitchers weren't fully stretched out. Yet you might need extra. Levers of starters can only go four innings instead of seven innings So maybe that's a possibility if they WANNA get game started again as quickly as possible. But it's as you're saying offline earlier if it affects everyone equally than shirt that might not be as big of a deal but it could certainly affect the quality of play even if it's not providing a competitive imbalance right and then the other consideration that there's already been some discussion about is the financial implications and obviously safety comes first. I would hope although of not necessarily for all. Mlb owners so that has already been a topic of discussion if there are fewer games if the season is not just delayed but shortened. Whose paychecks. Does that come out of essentially especially if you have to play games without fence in the stands and you have lower revenues as a result of that does that mean that players get docked because those games aren't being played because that revenue isn't coming in does that mean that the owners take hit. Obviously each side will have its own position and the players. I think will say that they should be paid but the owners may try to say well. It's a virus. It's essentially an act of God and therefore we are not responsible. We shouldn't shoulder the entire financial load. So that's something that especially given the backdrop of the upcoming CPA negotiations and the ongoing strife about labor conditions in MLB that could potentially intensified those. Or if there's already bad blood because of these other issues going on. Then maybe that becomes a point of contention and so. I don't know whether that might make it more likely that the entire schedule will be played or not just to avoid that question entirely but that is something that. I'm sure came up on the owners conference call with Rob Manfred on Thursday. It's really hard to wrap your mind around all of the potential ripple effects I've also been following. What's happening in basketball and basketball? Which has suspended it. Season reportedly at least thirty days. There's been some debate about whether they're going to complete their entire season. Just move straight to the playoffs But if they complete their entire season it's been said that might push games into August. Normally the basketball season ends in June. And then you have the draft and free agency and the Olympics and all these other staples to the calendar really and if the NBA season goes into August than all of those things would need to be changed. The I think the league like the official financial year would have to change and that just creates a whole mess. And I'm not sure if baseball would run into all of those same scenarios because the draft is different the Olympics are different but it still would create these vaster Blah affects that I think nobody is really capable of anticipating all of them right now just because things are happening so quickly and we can't look that far ahead to the future but I think the financial aspect is a huge part of it. You are already sort of seeing that when Washington state which was the first to close down large outdoor gatherings so the mariners couldn't host their home opener and that was going to be moved to Arizona and reportedly. Mlb was trying to figure out where they could play. Because even though the diamondbacks have a spring training facility there and they'll be one of them to go to a bigger stadium so they could sell more tickets. So I think finances have been part of this from the beginning and that's not necessarily surprising given the amount of money involved but I think I mean obviously we would hope that takes a back seat to doing what's best for everyone involved for nine financial reasons right and you know. Michael and I alluded to this yesterday. But BIG PICTURE. It is kind of just disquieting and disheartening. That this has happened again. It's completely appropriate. That it has happened if anything it happened to slowly but the fact that will be without baseball at this time of year. And I don't want to get to. Ken Burns Baseball about it. But you know opening day and Spring and a right of renewal and new life and instead we're getting the opposite of that and we don't have baseball which is just the soundtrack to so many people's lives and springs and summers and so often has been a source of solace for people and you think of the FDR green light letter during World War. Two and and saying that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going as a distraction as something to think about that is not the ongoing source of stress and tragedy and baseball has always been that and other sports to an extent as well that maybe it will temporarily suspend play in the wake of a tragedy. But then it'll come back and it'll bring people together and that's really one of the more insidious things about this. Is that the nature of the Corona viruses that it forces US apart right. It prevents us from bringing ourselves together. Because that's the worst thing we could do. The best protection against the spread of the virus that we stay on our own we isolate ourselves and that means that these communities activities that have an almost religious aspect to them not to make too much of it. But you know you gather in these Sports Cathedral. Send you worship these athletes in a sense and in a way that almost makes it worse in the sense that culture has kind of come to a halt this week very suddenly major sporting events major movies. Everything is getting postponed and the normal flow of business. Entertainment is just sort of stopping so this is not a situation where you say. Well at least I can put the game on for a few hours to forget about our problems the fact that you can't do that is just another reminder of the problem I've been thinking about that World War Two parallel lot as I said for World War One. This this season was shortened. But that wasn't the case in World War. Two in fact baseball was expanded in World War. Two because they added the women's League which inspired the best baseball movie ever made a League of their own By other sports were cancelled during World War Two the Olympics the World Cup but Major League baseball continued. Obviously now that's untenable but I think just to underscore how quickly these things are changing and how we really have no idea what's going to happen with the season or the schedule just as we were recording now the athletic In a story said that Illinois governor where you know the cubs play and the white sox play the white sox who we just wrote had a whole day on the site about how this is going to be there year. Yeah Illinois Governor says that he is recommending to all of Chicago's professional teams that statewide major sporting events should be shut down throughout all of April. So if that ends up being the case then Major League baseball can't return in Chicago for at least three weeks beyond the to which they've already postponed so. I think April eighth is the initial date postponed to but I would be really surprised if that actually ends up being anywhere close to when baseball can actually return well. This is obviously in evolving situation in many ways it is for baseball. It is for us at the ringer. Show the regular preview slate that we had in mind leading up to opening day. We're going to push that back along with baseball. And so when baseball looks like it's going to be back we will be back and if there any other major developments in the meantime perhaps we will bring you a special show but obviously this is all developing very quickly there a even have been further developments by the time you hear this but there's no way to keep pace with the news here so we wanted to get this up as reaction as an update to what we talked about last time. And of course we poked that you all stay safe and that will be back as soon as possible and that we will be back to talk to you as soon as possible so sack. Thanks for joining me stay safe.

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