MLB set to restart


With the Coronavirus pandemic still attacking the immune systems of people across the planet, the last thing anyone would want to do is play a sport that has players in such close contact with one another as baseball. Around mid-April, the MLB and MLBPA (player’s union)  began devising a way for them to play this season under different circumstances. Unlike the NBA or NHL, the MLB had not yet started their season and was about halfway through Spring Training when the virus brought life to an abrupt halt. This meant that not only did the player’s union and owners have to commit to a plan to be safe amid the virus, but they also had to commit to a format for the season.

From the beginning of organized baseball, the battle for power between the owners and players has been tense. As recently as 1994, the infamous strike ¾ of the way through the season between the two parties had a ripple effect that has come to directly affect the people of Northern Virginia. The Montreal Expos, the Nationals’ former entity, were a juggernaut headed for a World Series victory when the strike hit. Even in the following seasons, they were unable to recreate the magic, losing a fanbase in Montreal and eventually moving to Washington, where they have recently won the World Series that had eluded them in the past. Through the negotiations, the phrase “When and Where” was echoed by the player’s union, referencing that they wanted to play this season. Eventually, after a lot of strife and compromise from both sides, they agreed on a 60 game season, starting July 23 without fans. The season will roll into the playoffs, with a champion being crowned as “usual”. The word usual is put in quotes because of the fact that the champion for the 2020 season will forever be thought of as less worthy as the others due to the simple fact that they had played in less games to reach the pinnacle of the baseball world.

As expected, there are some players who have opted out of the season due to safety and personal reasons. The number of players who have actually opted out and those who have voiced concerns is a very small number, but at the time of writing, the biggest name players who have opted out are David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who is a 5-time All-Star and former Cy Young Award winner) Nick Markakis (former All-Star for the Atlanta Braves), among others. The list is bound to grow, and even during the season, there will be players who leave their teams to be with their families and will sacrifice a year of their career. For the Nationals, attempting a second straight World Series run, franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross, another intricate piece to the World Series Championship team, have both opted out of the season. Teams can plan for things like this, being allowed to have 60 players to “carry” with them as replacements for players who contract the virus, opt out of the season, or just get hurt. All other minor league players are sent home with the minor league 2020 season being canceled. The players will be tested every other day and, if they test positive, they will have to have two negative tests in a row within 24 hours before returning to the field. 

As the season gets closer, the teams have just announced their schedules for the season. Unsurprisingly, the teams will only play teams in their geographic area. For example, the Nationals play each of the other teams in their division:  the Miami Marlins, the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Atlanta Braves, as well as the teams in the corresponding division in the American League. These teams include the Baltimore Orioles, the New York Yankees, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Boston Red Sox. Simply put, teams from the National League East will play the American League East and the National League Central will play the American League Central, and so on. This is obviously to reduce the amount of travel needed during the season, greatly reducing the risk of contracting the Coronavirus. This makes for some very interesting scenarios between teams that normally don’t play one another. For example, on Opening Day, the Nationals host the Yankees in a marquee matchup that only gets played once every three years. In normal circumstances, this game would be sold out with Yankees fans and Nationals fans alike flocking to the stadium. Due to the circumstances, there will not be any fans, but this just makes the whole situation more abnormal.

While the MLB can still be shut down at the drop of a hat, the teams and players are proceeding with the season, hoping to provide some entertainment to the world while they are starved for something to root for, even if it is just their favorite baseball team. Whether one thinks the format for the MLB to return is good or bad, there is at least baseball being played, and it would be a travesty if there were none.