Major League Baseball is delaying the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced Thursday.
MLB also said in a statement that spring training games have been suspended, starting at 4 p.m. ET Thursday.
Commissioner Rob Manfred and the league’s owners held a conference call Thursday afternoon to formalize the plan.
“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,” MLB said in its statement.
MLB had been scheduled to open its season March 26, with all 30 teams in action.
Players had been awaiting a decision. On Thursday, before the announcement, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price walked into the team’s facility and said: “It’s gotta happen. This is so much bigger than sports. I’ve got two kids.”
Multiple teams had already pulled scouts off the road and sent them home because of coronavirus concerns, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Others have canceled all travel.
Shortly after MLB announced its decision to delay the start of its regular season, Minor League Baseball followed suit. In a statement, MILB announced that: “After consultation with medical professionals and our partners at Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball will delay the start of the 2020 Championship Season.” The minor-league season was scheduled to begin on April 9.
The MILB statement was a bit more open-ended that MLB’s announcement in that there was no mention of a minimum delay. However, it said that, “We will continue to monitor the developments and will announce additional information about the 2020 season at a later date. We will work with (MLB) and our community partners to resume play as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The major leagues have not had a mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the season was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a 7½-month strike that also wiped out the 1994 World Series. Opening Day was pushed back from April 2 to April 26.
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. The announcement Thursday said the decision was made “due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic.”
“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,” every Uniform Player’s Contract states.
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.”
Player salaries were reduced by 11.1% in 1995 because the games were lost due to a strike.