MLB suspends operations, delays Opening Day due to coronavirus

"MLB will continue to evaluate ongoing events leading up to the start of the season."

Associated Press
March 12, 2020 - 1:26 pm

NEW YORK (KMOX) — Major League Baseball is delaying the start of its season by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak and suspended the rest of its spring training game schedule.

Opening Day had been scheduled for March 26.

St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak told media Thursday that the Jupiter complex will remain open to players, but that everyone's safety is paramount.

"I would imagine tomorrow is going to be a light day, but we definitely want to meet with the players and bring some clarity," Mozeliak said. "It will be mandatory for everyone to report tomorrow so we can all be on the same page." 

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"We anticipate fans will have questions about their ticket purchases for those first two weeks, as well as for future games," said Joe Strohm, Vice President of Ticket Sales. "At this time, we are still working through our approach to handling ticketing issues, and will be communicating the details to fans soon."

MLB had continued to play into Thursday and the announcement came while some exhibitions were still going on. But baseball changed course after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he strongly recommended to local authorities and organizers that they limit all mass gatherings.

Spring training games were suspended as of 4 p.m. EDT Thursday. Qualifying games for the 2021 World Baseball Classic also were called off.

Here is the full release from MLB: 

"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. 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 p.m. ET today, forthcoming Spring Training games have been cancelled, and 2020 World Baseball Classic Qualifier games in Tucson, Ariz., 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."

This is a breaking news story that will be updated.

Previous reporting by AP

Major League Baseball is likely to cancel the rest of its spring training game schedule due to the coronavirus and probably will announce that the start of the season will be delayed, people familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision had been announced.

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They said baseball 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. An announcement would follow.

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 has not had a mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the season was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a 7 1/2-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% 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.”