As of Wednesday morning, MLB still had neither cancelled nor moved a regular-season game due to the coronavirus outbreak. But that “Wednesday morning” appears in that previous sentence indicates how fluid this situation is.
The calls between MLB’s task force on the issue and the clubs have not only grown more frequent, but more than just the designated point person for each team is often participating now as organizations each ponder contingencies if games need to be played at alternate sites or not at all.
MLB is investing so much manpower on this issue that the commissioner’s ruling on the Red Sox’s alleged sign stealing from their 2018 championship season has now been pushed back to at least next week.
For now, MLB is fixated on working with the Players Association to try to determine rules on how to handle in-game technology for this season, and is mostly in a day-by-day and even an hour-by-hour process of adapting to changing information about the coronavirus.
MLB’s current hope — as first reported by the Wall Street Journal — is to play games with fans in attendance, even if that means switching locales. The preferred method would be to flip-flop cities if at all possible. So, for example, to open the season the Rangers are slated to play at the Mariners; a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people was set to go into effect Wednesday for the Seattle metro area. The first choice if the games cannot be played at T-Mobile Park would be to see if the dates are open in the Rangers’ new stadium. MLB would then try to play a series scheduled late in the season for Texas in Seattle, if that proves feasible.
That is easiest when teams are in the same division and have six series against each other — three at home, three on the road.
If flip-flopping a series is untenable, the next choice would be either spring training sites or perhaps minor league stadiums. The next would be to play the games without crowds.
At present, MLB is most worried about games in Seattle and California, particularly northern California. And MLB also knows a lot of the decision-making could be out of its hands. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, for example, is a state-owned building. Thus, if California bans large gatherings, MLB will have to audible off of that decision.
That actually reflects where MLB is right now in reacting to the coronavirus — it is planning a season in full with no changes, recognizing that it almost certainly will have to make alterations based on real-time news.