Although Major League Baseball has the advantage of some time before Opening Day – two weeks, as of today – the reality is that if there are to be any comprehensive measures to limit large crowds in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, those measures are going to have to be planned and deployed as soon as possible.
That is to say, after the NBA suspended its season indefinitely last night, I think the door closed on any tiny possibility that MLB would simply be able to move a few series at the start of the season to new locations.
Things are changing by the minute, but at last check, Washington, California, and Ohio were among the states that had already dropped, or are about to drop, official restrictions on large gatherings. Illinois is presently considering the same kind of measure.
That is to say, you may quickly have as many as 10 MLB teams unable, by law, to play in front of crowds at home for some period of time. There will be a point at which MLB simply cannot coordinate new/modified plans, and will instead have to announce a period of crowd-less games, or simply delay the start of the regular season.
In the meantime, Spring Training games continue today with crowds, ostensibly because there have not been major COVID-19 outbreaks in central Arizona or throughout Florida, but it’s hard to imagine that not changing.
MLB is scheduled to have a conference call to make these decisions tomorrow, though I wonder if the NBA’s urgent decision will move that conversation up. The NHL is expected to make an announcement this morning at some point.
And, as I type, another major sport is suspending their season, and putting a six-week timetable on it:
The ATP has announced a six-week suspension of the men’s professional tennis tour due to public health & safety concerns over COVID-19.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) March 12, 2020
I'm not sure we've collectively done a good job emphasizing why extreme preventative measures are so important. The point is to slow the spread of #COVID19 so that our systems aren't overloaded by a sudden spike. The spread will happen, but slowing the pace is key. pic.twitter.com/CR7BI3Xcgo
— Brett Taylor (@Brett_A_Taylor) March 11, 2020