Major League Baseball announced Thursday afternoon it is canceling the rest of its spring training game schedule due to the coronavirus and delaying the start of the season by at least two weeks.
Commissioner Rob Manfred planned a conference call with his executive council Thursday to discuss the situation and then a call with controlling owners of the 30 clubs, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The announcement came just after 3 p.m. Eastern time.
“Following a call with the 30 Clubs, and after consultation with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. today announced that MLB has decided to suspend Spring Training games and to delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic,” the league said in a statement. “This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans.
“MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season. Guidance related to daily operations and workouts will be relayed to Clubs in the coming days. As of 4:00 p.m. ET today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been cancelled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Arizona have been postponed indefinitely.”
“MLB and the Clubs have been preparing a variety of contingency plans regarding the 2020 regular season schedule. MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible.
“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”
Statement from Major League Baseball: pic.twitter.com/0bWS5VTRPu
— MLB (@MLB) March 12, 2020
MLB had continued to play into Thursday, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he strongly recommended to local authorities and organizers that they limit all mass gatherings.
The big league season had been scheduled to start March 26, its earliest opening other than for international games.
MLB had not had a mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the season was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a seven-month strike that also wiped out the 1994 World Series. Opening Day was pushed back from April 2 to April 26.
Player salaries were reduced by 11.1 percent in 1995 because the games were lost due to a strike.
If regular-season games are lost this year, MLB could attempt to reduce salaries by citing paragraph 11 of the Uniform Player’s Contract, which covers national emergencies.
“This contract is subject to federal or state legislation, regulations, executive or other official orders or other governmental action, now or hereafter in effect respecting military, naval, air or other governmental service, which may directly or indirectly affect the player, club or the league,” it says.
The provision also states the agreement is “subject also to the right of the commissioner to suspend the operation of this contract during any national emergency during which Major League Baseball is not played.”
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