Doubts are being cast over the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season after COVID-19 outbreaks and various game postponements.
The new campaign began last month, at a greatly-reduced game schedule compared to a regular season.
Players’ off-field decisions have been criticized by both officials and fellow professionals alike, with some fearing that the campaign may not be completed.
Others have also said they wish not to participate in the current season due to the ongoing pandemic.
More must be done to address the coronavirus-related problems within baseball
MLB got underway in mid-July, with games reduced from the usual 162 to just 60. However, it didn’t take long for problems to arise.
The Miami Marlins have reported over 20 new cases of COVID-19, with 19 games across the division already being suspended. Over the weekend just gone, 20% of the teams could not play their scheduled games due to the pandemic.
The Marlins reported no new coronavirus cases last week, but will be without second baseman Isan Díaz for the rest of this season. He decided to opt out of the current campaign as a result of the ongoing situation.
MLB players who have not been following safety protocols were criticized by Chicago Cubs Outfielder Steven Souza on Friday night. He tweeted:
“Every player in this league better take a hard look at what you’re doing off the field, because what you do affects more than just you and your team. Your decisions off the field will put all of our seasons in jeopardy this year.”
Meanwhile, as reported by ESPN, one high-ranking official in the MLB has been similarly critical of some individuals’ conduct. They simply said that “there are some bad decisions being made”.
Will the season conclude?
Unlike the NBA and MLS campaigns, the MLB is not using a bubble environment.
According to the same ESPN article, sources close to the publication said that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the league’s Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark on Friday that a season shutdown could happen. This is if the sport doesn’t begin to do a better job at preventing the spread of the virus.
Manfred also told the Associated Press on Saturday that it’s possible that some teams won’t complete the 60-game season. Should this be the case, it’s possible that a ‘winning percentage’ formula will be used to determine who does and doesn’t qualify for the playoffs. Similar systems have been used in other sports; some European soccer leagues decided their season’s final standings based on a ‘points-per-game’ model.
Manfred called on a collective effort to stop COVID-19 from ruining the season, while he also thinks that recent events could be a necessary wake-up call.
“It is what the public health experts have been saying from the beginning about this, that there is no one big magic fix.
“The protocols are a series of little things that people need to do. We’ve had some problems. In order to be better, it’s another series of little things. I think it’s peer pressure. I think it’s players taking personal responsibility. I think it’s the union helping us like Tony Clark helped us yesterday. And I think it’s us managing more aggressively.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to think that we’re not going to have any more positive tests. We’re going to be fluid. We think it’s manageable.”