When Major League Baseball first announced the decision to postpone the regular season – revealed on last Thursday – the target date for an amended Opening Day was only two weeks later than originally scheduled.
Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to grow steadily, catalyzing the complete closure of several Spring Training facilities and the first known case of the novel coronavirus in MLB: a Minor League player in the Yankees' system.
The timetable for when baseball will resume was lengthened on Monday as Major League Baseball announced the league will push back Opening Day even further. The league elected to enact this updated policy in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On Sunday, the CDC issued a statement recommending that all events with more than 50 people present should be canceled for the next eight weeks, effective immediately.
"Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.
Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States."
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Eight weeks from Sunday is May 10. That means that even if all goes well – domestically slowing down and containing the virus with event cancelations, social distancing, self-quarantines – Spring Training wouldn't resume until at least mid-May.
Players will need two to three weeks to get ready for an abbreviated season, setting everything back into the month of June.
As MLB's Commissioner Rob Manfred, the Players Association and representatives from each team continue to discuss plans moving forward, even optimists in the industry aren't forecasting baseball's return any time soon. For some, a regular season as late as July, might be more realistic.
Late last week, players were given three options in response to the coronavirus pandemic. They were permitted to return to their personal homes dispersed across the country, to travel to their respective team's home city, or to stay put where their club's spring facility is situated.
Initially, the Yankees voted unanimously to stick around in Tampa and continue to workout as a team. After all, delay aside, New York's roster is championship caliber. Since a Minor Leaguer within the organization tested positive for COVID-19, however, it's possible that players will change their minds and begin heading home across the nation in the coming days.
For the time being, the best place for them to continue training and preparing for the season is Major League facilities. There, players have access to equipment, coaches who have also elected to stick around and medical staffs just in case.
Speaking to reporters this weekend, Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged the fluidity of this unprecedented situation. Judging by the trajectory the virus has taken across the world, the next few weeks will be decisive in containing its spread.
Either way, as days fly by with no definitive end in sight, all the baseball fans can do is be patient. For the next two months, at least, there will be no baseball.
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