On March 11, the Utah Jazz were set to play the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just a day before, the US had surpassed 900 COVID-19 cases, leaving major sports leagues debating whether or not fans should be allowed to interact with players and go to sporting events. Minutes before tipoff, one of the teams’ doctors came running out onto the court demanding that the game be delayed. The news had broken that Rudy Gobert, All-Star center for the Utah Jazz, had tested positive for coronavirus. Within the next 24 hours, all major sports leagues, including the NBA, MLB and NHL, had suspended their seasons indefinitely.
Major League Baseball’s Opening Day was set for March 26. The Washington Nationals were set to experience being league champions after winning their first World Series last fall. Recently signed star players like Dodgers’ Mookie Betts and Yankees’ Gerrit Cole would be playing for a new team this year. But when the MLB announced that the season would be delayed, the sporting world was officially put on pause. As COVID-19 continues to force the closure of major sports leagues, what effects will it have on the MLB?
Preliminary announcements have said that the 2020 MLB Draft will be pushed back and shortened, lessening the amount of players drafted this year. Additionally, if the season were never to happen, it would still count as a year of service. This news is particularly important for organizations and baseball fans because this implies that if there is no season, players will still get partial compensation and a year of their contracts will be gone without any physical play to show for it. Teams with impending free agents after the 2020 season will have lost a season with their players.
For example, when Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers, he had one year left on his contract. If the season were to be cancelled, he would still get paid and may never play a game in a Dodger uniform.
Sophomore Alex Rubinson, an avid baseball fan, believes that if the season does get cancelled indefinitely, then “things become a lot more interesting.” Fans around the league believe the Dodgers won the trade with the Red Sox, but if there isn’t a season, Rubinson realizes that “Boston went from getting robbed to the ones pulling off the heist.” Teams with ambitions to win a World Series might have to completely change their plans due to COVID-19.
On the economic side, thousands of employees at MLB ballparks have been affected and the league as a whole will lose millions of dollars. All 30 MLB teams continued to pay their workers through April 30 in order to help them continue to afford basic necessities during this hard time. In order to pay employees, MLB owners were paying out of their own pockets. With the league suspended and the loss of ticket sales, merchandise sales and TV deals, there is no profit being made. COVID-19 will undoubtedly hurt MLB teams economically as well as competitively.
Just like most companies in the world, the MLB will take a big hit due to COVID-19. Plans have been speculated to bring baseball back as soon as July, but they all seem unlikely considering the amount of thought and precautions MLB would have to take in order to reassure players they are safe. Either way, baseball fans will take baseball in any shape or form and stay hopeful for a season to take place this year.
Rahil Malhotra ’22