Although we’re primarily here for MLB (and NFL and NBA), in the time off the Coronavirus, there’s a pretty clear interrelationship between what is happening with other sports and what will ultimately happen with MLB. As we saw when things quickly shut down two weeks ago, there’s a pretty clear follower effect when it comes to sports, and understandably so.
For that reason, I want to note a few non-MLB sports timeline items, as they provide some context for what might happen with stateside baseball if and when the outbreak has peaked in the US …
- The biggest news right now, but arguably the least relevant to MLB, is the postponement of the Summer Olympics. That news just came down, but it’s not clear when the Tokyo games will kick off – we just know it won’t be July 24, as previously scheduled. It’s possible they might not come until next summer, though much will depend on what happens over the next couple months. Although the Coronavirus has not seen exponential spread in Japan, the reality is that countries simply do not want to plan to send their athletes and their citizens to a giant mass gathering right now.
- Sadly, these games in Japan were going to be the first in a long time that saw professional baseball players (guys on the 40-man, but not in the big leagues, would be eligible) from the United States playing in the Olympics. Hopefully the games are only delayed by a little while, or at least can go off next summer.
- Speaking of Japan, there is (practice) baseball happening in the NPB right now:
there was baseball played last night in japan (and south korea), as former braves’ top pick carter stewart made his debut against top-level hitters… he struck out five in five one-run innings, including this 95.7-mph fastball to end the first for @hawks_official: pic.twitter.com/50Aos4VNVX
— max (@MaxWildstein) March 20, 2020
There were no fans, but the organist was doing her thing at MetLife Dome https://t.co/hmTvCauIw0
— Jason Coskrey (@JCoskrey) March 22, 2020
- For now, NPB is looking at possibly opening its regular season in about a month:
A new possible NPB Opening Day being discussed is Apr 24, or later. The game scheduling and possible post season truncation depends on whether Summer Olympics go ahead as planned. The latest opening day in NPB history is Apr 14, back in 1973 https://t.co/QKjjjvGrLG #npb
— NPB on reddit (@NPB_Reddit) March 23, 2020
- I can’t presume the Google Translate is perfect on this one, but I think the idea for this extra month is to give the situation a chance to allow fans to attend games when the season begins. Since players are already gearing up for the season, I’ve got to assume they COULD start the regular season much sooner than late April if they were willing to play without fans. My guess? Gate receipts are much more critical in Japan than in the United States, where monster TV contracts are a much larger chunk of revenue, making fan-less games more realistic.
- There are also practice games going on in South Korea, which was hit hard by the Coronavirus early on, but massive testing, tracking, and containment efforts paid off.
- Meanwhile, the Premier League (“football” across the pond) is reportedly hoping to resume play on June 1, because they want to get the season finished before the NEXT season is set to begin on August 8. Talk about a time crunch. Of note, when the games resume, it sounds like the plan is for them to be played without fans, possibly for the duration of this season.
- You’re probably already there, but if you aren’t, I’d start wrapping your head around the likelihood that, if MLB does kick off its season by some time in June, it’s very possible – likely, even – that the games will begin without fans.