After initially closing down operations in March due to the coronavirus, Major League Baseball has suffered strike two. MLB announced it is closing down spring training facilities for a second time with growing concerns about the increased spread of the virus with five Philadelphia Phillies players testing positive for the illness. Unfortunately, this could be the first domino in the second shutdown of major sports in America.
MLB shuts down first time in March
In March, when the nation was gaining a better understanding on the scope of the ever-evolving pandemic, Washington state began to close activities involving large groups, which prompted the Seattle Mariners to start a conversation with MLB about alternative game sites.
On March 11, while MLB explored ideas for having teams from the most-affected areas play at alternative sites, the NBA suspended its season indefinitely when Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive. On that same day, the WHO declared a global pandemic.
The NHL and MLS soon followed with their season suspensions. After initially delaying the start of the season, on March 13 MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced the season would be indefinitely suspended.
Baseball owners and players union have delayed resumption
In the last month, a variety of sports have resumed action around the United States, and the world. On May 9, the UFC had its first fights, and has since been followed by European soccer in the Bundesliga and English Premier League, and stateside in the last two weeks with the PGA Tour.
Basketball and MLS have both been in the process of coordinating plans for a return. MLS players have returned to training camps and the action is scheduled to resume in a league-wide tournament on July 8. NBA organizations have taken a more staggered approach in opening facilities. While there is hope for a July 30 return to action date, there has been some pushback from players with concerns about their health and safety.
Meanwhile, in late May the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays were the first MLB teams to open their team facilities for limited individual workouts. The main news coming out of MLB in recent weeks has been regarding baseball owners and the players’ union barking back and forth in trying to find an agreeable solution for both parties on a return to play. The prolonged negotiations have centered on three things: safety and health protocols, length of season, and amount of pay.
MLB shuts down facilities for second time
On June 15, the Associated Press reported that several unidentified MLB players and staff had tested positive for COVID-19. It was unclear if those who tested positive were at a team facility or came into contact with other club members, and possibly spread the virus.
Today, the Philadelphia Phillies shut down their Clearwater, Fla. spring training facility after five players and three team employees tested positive. Shortly after, the Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, and Texas Rangers did the same. MLB then decided to shut down all facilities according to a report by the Associated Press. The facilities were to receive a deep cleaning and disinfecting. No one will be permitted back inside without a negative test for the virus.
Whether this is the unfortunate first domino to fall in a second shutdown of sports is still yet to be determined. MLB will either look like the boy who cried wolf or the league whose protracted negotiations resulted in what turned out to be the inevitable cancellation of the season. Time will tell.