New York Post - 13.03.2020

(Ben Green) #1

New York Post, Friday, March 13, 2020

On Thursday, Major
League Baseball
announced the
suspension of exhibition
games as well as the
delay of its regular season
by at least two weeks due
to the coronavirus
pandemic. This
unprecedented event has
produced many
questions. The Post’s Ken
Davidoff has some
answers, albeit with many
open ends due to the
situation’s fluidity.
Q: How long can
we expect MLB
to be shut
A: Bet the
over on the
“at least two
That represents
the absolute best-
case scenario, and given
the forecasts by the
medical experts, the best-
case scenario appears
extremely unlikely to turn
into reality.
Q: So we’re looking at a
shortened season? Or will
the schedule extend on
the back end?
A: We’re looking at a
shortened season. It’s not
like the schedule can run
through Thanksgiving.
Even if you throw in some
doubleheaders or add a
week to take the regular
season through Oct. 4,
you’re not getting to 162
games. We’re going to
have our first reduced
schedule since 1995, which
ran 144 games thanks to
the work stoppage that
also truncated the 1994
season and canceled that
World Series.
Q: What will occur
during this suspension?
Will players stay in shape
so that they’ll be ready to
go when the coronavirus
curve flattens?
A: That’s the goal, yes.
Clubs’ spring-training
facilities will remain open
to players, and teams
would be thrilled if all
players stayed put and
worked with their
managers and coaches.
However, if players want
to return to their homes
and be with their families,
their employers will grant
them such leeway with
the trust that they’ll
maintain their
preparation for the
Q: Following up on that,
will there be more spring-
training games when
action resumes before a
delayed Opening Day?
A: While the game’s
powers haven’t

traveled far enough down
that road to confirm that,
it appears to be a sensible
assumption. Just a
handful to sharpen the
players’ readiness, you’d
Q: What if you have
purchased a ticket to a
game that has been
A: You shall receive a
refund. However, don’t
expect to receive your
money back before the
official plan goes into
action. As of now,
the games are
“delayed,” not
Q: Will
players, as
well as team
and league
employees, still
get paid during the
A: That’s the plan for
now, yes; this is no time
for a battle between the
commissioner’s office and
the Players Association.
Now, if the delay goes
well into the summer and
teams’ revenues get
slaughtered? There might
have to be a conversation.
Q: Dallas Mavericks
owner Mark Cuban drew
praise on Wednesday
night by suggesting his
franchise will take care
financially of the hourly
workers at the team’s
home arena, American
Airlines Center, who lose
out on wages due to this
development. Will
employees at major
league (and minor league)
ballparks receive the
same assistance?
A: Another case of “This
hasn’t been locked down
yet due to the rapidity of
the events that got us
here.” However, following
Cuban’s lead represents
good public relations at
relatively minimal
cost for baseball
teams. Count
on it
... and
count on
PR for any
team that
doesn’t go
along with
the Cuban




HE MAPLESS season began
Thursday with MLB forced
quicker than it had hoped to deal
with the inevitable — cancellation of
the rest of spring training and at least
the first two weeks of the regular sea-
And then?
How many regular-season games are
played by rosters of what size covering
what months with what playoff config-
uration are all questions that will be
thought about and rejiggered as newer
and newer information rolls in. The
hope is that MLB gets a chance to apply
a theory. Public health is going to take
precedent and coronavirus is an un-
known adversary. So who knows when
it will be quelled and who knows if the
virus returns with cooler weather in
the fall when the major leagues annu-
ally contest its biggest games.
In the short run, MLB will continue
to monitor the situation, but without a
regular season to begin on March 26, it
will actually have time to get to two is-
sues that have been put to the side
with the overwhelming day-by-day
priority of reacting to coronavirus:

  1. The commissioner’s ruling on the
    alleged 2018 Red Sox sign stealing.

  2. MLB and the Players Association
    coming to an agreement on how to
    handle in-game technology for 2020.
    The sides, for example, have been de-
    liberating whether
    to eliminate play-
    ers’ ability to use
    video to watch pre-
    vious at-bats or
    But the largest
    looming matter
    will be how to han-
    dle the 2020 season
    — and all of the fallout.
    Because there is going to be, at
    minimum, a gigantic financial hit.
    MLB loosely is hoping to return
    April 9, but that might be a pipe
    dream. When the games return,
    will fans be allowed in? If not,
    the losses will go into the billions
    of dollars pretty quickly with the
    absence of attendance and TV.
    That will be felt in the free-agent
    market next offseason, likely
    exacerbating the an-
    ger that ex-
    ists al-
    ers —

ticularly veteran non-stars — about
how they have been paid in recent
years. And by then the collective bar-
gaining agreement will be just a year
from expiring in December 2021.
And the nerves could be frayed fur-
ther as teams and
players battle over
whether players
should be paid dur-
ing an absence not
caused by their do-
ing. MLB will al-
most certainly take
the position that the
commissioner has
the power under Paragraph 11 of the
uniform player contract to suspend all
contracts during a national emergency
— and MLB used the term “national
emergency” in its Thursday statement
canceling the rest of the spring train-
ing and suspending the first two weeks
of the regular season.
The sides will also have to deter-
mine with a shortened schedule how
service time is accrued, since that is
the key element that pushes players to-
ward the paydays of arbitration and
free agency. How will contractual per-
formance bonuses based on, say, plate
appearances or pitching game appear-
ances designed for a 162-game sched-
ule be recalibrated? If the season is de-
layed too long, will that motivate clubs
in a greater way not to call up their
best prospects and start service clocks,

especially if a shortened season is to
count in full as one service year?
MLB has dealt with labor-related
work stoppages that impacted the
number of games played multiple
times. Notably, 713 total games were
lost in 1981 and for the only time in ma-
jor league history there was a split sea-
son with the divisional winners of
each half advancing to the playoffs.
In 1994, a strike led to the cancella-
tion of the postseason and the labor is-
sues spilled over into the following
year, leading to a shortened 144-game
So there are some precedents for
playing decreased seasons. But what is
the point at which MLB finds a full
regular season untenable? A hundred
games? Ninety? Eighty?
As a way to deal with a condensed
spring training, will rosters expand?
The 1995 season began with 28-man
rosters, for example. As a way to try
not to penalize teams for the shorter
season, will MLB enlarge the playoffs,
especially since that is the inventory
that networks want anyway? Could
MLB experiment with the expansion
to the 14-team playoff system it was
hoping to install in 2021?
Of course all of this will revolve
around just when (again, hopefully
when) MLB will be able to begin a sea-
son. For now, they have no map on
where this is going.
[email protected]

Joel ShermanJoel Sherman

Road back to playing

ball will have bumps

ON BREAK: Ushers leave an empty Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers,
Fla., after an exhibition game between the Twins and Orioles on Thursday
was called off and spring training canceled. AP
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