As anticipated, an agreement regarding the coronavirus-driven suspension of the 2020 season has resulted in a freezing of MLB rosters, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. A date for the resumption of transactions will be set in the future.
As part of their negotiations, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have also reached a set of understandings regarding the resumption of play. Jeff Passan of ESPN.com (Twitter links) reported the details. Roster movement will be permitted once a new Opening Day can be scheduled.
It isn’t fully clear whether the sides have specifically agreed to restrictions as part of their collectively bargained special exceptions to the Basic Agreement. But it seems at minimum the mutual intention is to wait until baseball can conduct business in much the usual fashion before starting the season.
Per Passan, the league and union do not wish to begin play if fans cannot be present. Thus, a lifting of bans on mass gatherings will be a precondition to the start of the season — though he adds there’s a “caveat” by which neutral sits and empty stadiums can be considered as needed.
It’s good there’s some flexibility baked into this set of understandings, as there are no guarantees as to whether and when typical staging of ballgames will be possible. Even if some number of fans are ultimately permitted in to watch a contest, that would always be subject to change.
Much the same holds true of one of the other requirements for resuming play identified by Passan: a lack of travel restrictions. We don’t yet know what kinds of domestic transportation modifications we’ll end up facing in this crisis, but it seems likely the approach will evolve over time as needs change in various areas.
The final main consideration for holding contests is the review of medical experts to ensure it is safe to those on hand. MLB’s precise plans aren’t clear; perhaps the league will engage a consultant to guide the process.
It’s certainly good to hear that the league and union intend to ensure their actions won’t pose a health risk to those involved in the game and/or the broader public. But the set of requirements also seems rather steep given where things stand now in the effort to contain the deadly pathogen. In particular, much as we’d all love to see the game played in front of live audiences, it seems as if that’ll be awfully difficult to pull off in the near term given the vast ongoing uncertainty.