Shortly after the Arizona Diamondbacks’ game against the Milwaukee Brewers was called off Thursday due to weather, the MLB announced all spring games would be postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Regular season games will be suspended for a minimum of two weeks.
There’s no contingency plan yet if the hiatus extends, but D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick said he expects that discussion to take place between MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLB Players Association president Tony Clark in the next few days.
“Clearly this is all unprecedented and all of us at this point are being very reactive,” Kendrick said. “What we would hope to do is be able with this next couple of days with Rob and Tony and their teams, working with one another as to be planful for where we go from here.”
D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said that after the postponement there may be a “quick tune-up” for a week or two as a sort of extended spring training, but they have not yet decided on that plan.
All in all, there is no certainty yet in the situation. Opening Day, scheduled for March 26, is right at the two-week mark. Even in a best-case scenario, that’s not enough time for teams to finish that potential further prep and employees to prepare a stadium for an actual baseball game.
But Hall is still hopeful all games will be played this season, even if they are rescheduled. Arizona may end up hosting some between out-of-state teams.
What is going on?
With a two-week postponement to games, Hall said the goal is to not lose any games on the schedule, though some may have to be pushed back if Opening Day does not begin as originally scheduled.
“With the verbiage of ‘at least two weeks’ … I don’t anticipate us losing any games and I think that’s the goal here,” Hall said. “Whether we’d just pick up where that date is when we start and then take the games that have been postponed and move those to the back end, that could be a strong option.”
The meetings between league heads including Manfred and Clark this weekend will get into further detail about how to proceed. As the regular season hasn’t started yet, MLB is in a relatively more ideal place to deal with this situation than leagues like the NBA, NHL and NCAA.
Time is important, but the league has been able to avoid what the NBA dealt with Wednesday night when the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder were called off the court after a Jazz player’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis came in shortly before tipoff.
No MLB players have tested positive for coronavirus yet, Hall said. He also said there are no imminent plans to test everyone in the league, but that the MLB is discussing protocol on how to proceed.
That’s something that might have to change before the season resumes. Catcher Steven Vogt thought it to be a frightening prospect that symptoms don’t always show.
“I think it’s possible that anybody has it, right? The symptoms aren’t showing it in everybody … We just don’t know,” he said. “I think that’s the scary part.”
To answer the question of “What is going on?”: quite frankly, nobody is quite sure. Vogt said the players don’t know much more than the general public.
“We literally have no information. We’re all waiting to find out what our day looks like tomorrow,” he said.
That’s not exclusive to players. Even up to the owners and managers, there isn’t a whole lot of information.
“Everything’s uncertain, which is why we say at least two weeks,” Hall said. “We’re certainly hoping that it’ll be two weeks when we get started again. There’s also uncertainty in what the lifespan of this is, how long it’s going to last.”
With the uncertainty, the league is attempting to be proactive and minimize the risk to players, employees and fans.
What will D-backs players be doing the next two-plus weeks?
So if the D-backs don’t know what’s going on, what will their next two-plus weeks look like?
“I’m not really sure what’s going to happen, so it’s definitely weird, but we’re going to try to stay ready and get our work in,” shortstop Nick Ahmed said.
The team is encouraged to continue using the Salt River Fields facility. Hall said food services and training staff will be available for the players so they can continue working out and preparing for the start of the season, whenever that may take place.
The only difference, Vogt said, is going through spring training without the actual spring training games.
“The safest place is probably the complex for us. We haven’t had an issue yet so for us to go out and find a gym membership … would probably be putting us at more risk to get it,” Vogt said. “Opening Day’s still close, so we want to keep working out together and keep practicing.”
Beyond those two weeks, Hall believes the scheduled series in Mexico from April 18 to 19 against the San Diego can go on as planned.
“We have not been told about the special events being postponed or changed,” Hall said. “Right now, we’re still planning on going to Mexico and playing those games as they’re scheduled.”
If MLB is ready to resume games before cities lift bans on large gatherings of crowds, the Valley could play host to different teams in games not involving the D-backs, Hall said. He referenced ESPN reporter Jeff Passan’s article of preliminary plans that other teams may play Opening Day series in Arizona after spring training.
That article was published late Wednesday night, before league play was suspended, but it sounds like the idea has not been tossed out.
“Ken and I have told other owners where there’s situations that are different than here, we’ve heard for the last couple of days different numbers of crowds that they’re trying to avoid in certain cities, possibly teams having to open here if we were still on schedule,” Hall said. “We had said all along we’re willing to help out.”
To sum it all up: Major League Baseball games will not be played for the next month. That much is certain. Nothing else is.
“Being upset or feeling one way or the other isn’t going to change anything,” Ahmed said. “We just gotta accept what they decided and roll with it. Nothing’s set in stone.”