MLB Season Reportedly Willing to Play Through Coronavirus Outbreaks

New language hints at MLB continuing with season even with a coronavirus outbreak

MLB Manfred Coronavirus
Major League Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. talks to the media during the Grape Fruit League Media Availability press conference on Monday, February 16, 2020.
Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Though MLB hasn’t fully finalized its plan to return to action this summer, a new report has found that the league could continue play even if the coronavirus spreads among participating teams. SNY’s Andy Martino is reporting that MLB and the players’ union added a clause to its March agreement regarding a restarted season, a clause that would seem to allow commissioner Rob Manfred to keep the season going even if there is an outbreak.

The amended language is the third point in the below excerpt, which was added just this week as baseball inches back to life (emphasis ours):

The Commissioner retains the right to suspend or cancel the 2020 championship season or postseason, or any games therein, in the event that (i) restrictions on travel throughout the United States are imposed; (ii) there is a material change in circumstances such that the Commissioner determines, after consultation with recognized medical experts and the Players Association, that it poses an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games, even without fans in attendance; or (iii) The number of players who are unavailable to perform services due to COVID-19 is so great that the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.

Martino explicitly calls into question whether an outbreak would trigger that clause, as the wording seems to say that it would require a significant number of positive tests before the MLB season would be suspended:

Baked into the amended language is an acknowledgement that an outbreak within a team could decimate it or cause the cancellation of games. That would not automatically mean an end to the season itself.

In other words, if a team were to be hit with an outbreak and have to cancel games or even pull out of the season altogether, it would not mean that the entire league shuts down. That the players agreed to such a clause would seem to indicate that there is at least willingness on both sides to play high-risk games amidst the pandemic.

Given that the current plan would see teams play 60 games in 66 days before the playoffs, there is not much room for rescheduling games, so the amended clause would only kick in if enough teams come down with an outbreak to make the season falter. Both the league and the players will have to hope, for both financial and health reasons, that this worst case scenario does not come to pass.

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