This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.
Cape Cod Baseball League Cancels Season
The Cape Cod Baseball League announced Friday that its executive committee voted unanimously to cancel its 2020 season, which was originally scheduled to open on June 13.
“Following CDC guidelines and medical recommendations, the league determined it would be impossible to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, umpires, host families, volunteers and fans during this unprecedented health crisis,” the league said in its announcement.
The Cape Cod Baseball League is the second in the National Alliance of Summer College Baseball to cancel its season, following a similar decision by the Valley Baseball League in Virginia that was made earlier this month. In addition to cancelled seasons, stay-at-home mandates issued by individual states have pushed back the season-openers of the Northwoods League and the Hamptons League, while the Cal Ripken Collegiate Summer League made the proactive decision to delay the season until July 1. In the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, there is still a plan to proceed with the season as scheduled, but three teams have already stated that they won’t be able to operate this year.
The loss of summer leagues delivers another (albeit completely necessary) blow to college players who lost their spring seasons, but may have still been clinging to hope there would be other opportunities to play this year. Because these leagues are so spread out across the country, they’ll likely continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways, leading to varying approaches to this season. From a statement given by the NASCB on Friday:
“Currently, stay at home orders continue to vary widely across the footprint of our alliance. The remaining 10 leagues in the NACSB are continuing discussions about their next steps. Some of these leagues have already pushed expected start dates later, and others are likely to do the same. Each of these leagues will continue to make decisions that are based on factors specific to their region and individual league operations, with safety as a priority.”
Mets, Indians Announce Plans To Continue Paying Staff
One of the last remaining holdouts on the subject of paying employees, the Cleveland Indians announced late Friday that they would be keeping non-playing staff on payroll all the way through June 30.
The Cleveland Indians have committed to paying a majority of their full-time employees their full salaries through at least June 30, sources tell me and @kileymcd. Forty senior staff members agreed to pay cuts to help ensure the full salaries of the rest of the full-time staff.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 24, 2020
If my count is correct, this leaves the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays as the only teams who have not guaranteed salaries to their non-playing employees past April 30. The Mets, meanwhile, made an announcement on Monday that they would be extending their own guarantee of employees’ pay through the end of the scheduled season, albeit with pay cuts.
The #Mets intend to pay employees for remainder of originally scheduled season, but with pay cuts that will take effect 6/1 and remain regardless of whether games resume, sources tell @TimBritton and @EvanDrellich. Plan similar to what #Padres are doing. https://t.co/jhw5ZpGzC8
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 27, 2020
Passan: MLB ‘Increasingly Optimistic’ There Will Be A 2020 Season
In a column published Monday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Passan relayed an outlook of confidence from decision-makers inside and outside Major League Baseball that there will be baseball played in some form or fashion in 2020. This sentiment comes after Rob Manfred wrote a letter to teams last week in which he stated he “fully anticipates” baseball will return this year, the CPBL is up and running overseas, and the KBO is set to open its season in just a few days.
The public plan for how MLB will return to action this calendar year seems no more specific now than it has at any point in the last few weeks, but as states begin to ease stay-at-home restrictions, more possibilities are opening up. Instead of going all-in on a biosphere in Arizona, MLB could have hubs in Texas, Florida, and potentially even other sites as individual states continue to decide their immediate futures. The goal, according to Passan, is to settle on a plan in the next month, and then begin the process of gathering players and resuming spring training to gear up for a July Opening Day.
NBA Re-opening Practice Facilities Where Restrictions Are Eased
To continue the theme of leagues’ responses to states lifting strict bans on small gatherings, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA will begin re-opening practice facilities in areas that have eased stay-at-home restrictions as early as May 1. The report mentioned Georgia, whose governor announced he will allow businesses to re-open and ease stay-at-home restrictions after just a few weeks of social distancing, as one place where players could end up flocking for practice in the coming weeks.
According to The New York Times, Colorado, Alaska, Minnesota, and Mississippi have also taken measures to lift stay-at-home orders.
Pro Sports Leagues Still Leaving Some Game Day Workers Behind
Weeks after many owners of MLB, NHL and NBA teams offered words of reassurance regarding how they would take care of their employees in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, a survey by USA Today found that the actual assistance those employees have received varies wildly on a team-by-team basis. The survey revealed a predictably grim picture for part-time stadium workers who are employed by third-party companies — of whom there are hundreds working at any given game — and are left vulnerable by compensation plans that don’t account for paying them directly, or provide money to their third-party employers without actually ensuring it reaches workers. Of the 91 professional teams surveyed, just 29 had plans that included part-time third-party workers.