MLB’s season outlook is getting bleaker by the day with COVID continuing to wreak havoc across the league. The Marlins and Phillies haven’t seen the field since Sunday while the Cardinals, Brewers, Blue Jays and Nationals find themselves in similar limbo. Simply put, the league is scrambling to save its season, as commissioner Rob Manfred alluded to Friday in his conversations with union head Tony Clark.
How soon could MLB pull the plug on its doomed 2020 season? According to Keith Olbermann of ESPN, a decision to halt play could come as soon as Monday. Per Olbermann, networks broadcasting MLB games were alerted Friday to begin looking for alternate programming in the event of a shutdown.
After barely getting the season off the ground following a lengthy and at times ugly negotiation between players and owners, it took less than a week for the league to encounter problems with more than half the Marlins team testing positive for COVID. Miami’s outbreak has had a massive domino effect, influencing the Phillies (their opponent last weekend), Yankees (who the Phillies were scheduled to play next but couldn’t because they were quarantined) and Orioles (who had their home-and-home against the Marlins scrapped), among other clubs. The Marlins’ disaster is just the tip of the iceberg for MLB with the Blue Jays exiled from Toronto (their adopted home venue in Buffalo won’t be game-ready for another two weeks), confusion over safety protocols, false positive tests (Nationals star Juan Soto believes he never actually had the virus) and the league changing rules, including the recent adoption of seven-inning doubleheaders, on the fly.
It’s been a week of chaos for baseball with many questioning the league’s decision not to hold its games in a bubble setting similar to the NBA, whose return to play has gone smoothly to this point (knock on wood). Maybe that wouldn’t have been feasible—baseball teams field much larger rosters and require more space for equipment and other needs. Insider Jon Heyman also notes that one of the suggested bubble sites—Phoenix, where many of the league’s spring training facilities are located—would be literal hell to play in with temperatures averaging in the 100s this time of year.
There’s plenty of blame to go around on both sides—the contentious nature of labor talks may have distracted from where the league’s focus should have been—creating a safe work environment amid the deadliest pandemic of our lifetime. But finger-pointing won’t help anyone at this point. The damage is done and now it’s on MLB to save its season from the brink of annihilation.
As I imagine most other media outlets have, here at RADIO.COM we’ve prepared a “doomsday” article with pre-written copy in case MLB decides to shut its doors amid the league's continuing drama. The hope is we’ll never have to use it. But with the season falling apart before our eyes, we just might.