With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing across the globe, there have been a lot of changes to normal life. Holding public events with thousands of people in attendance is virtually impossible at the moment, and thus sporting events have suffered, with almost all major sports having to postpone, cancel or suspend tournaments. American sports have been no different, with the likes of the NBA, MLS, NHL and MLB all having to either suspend ongoing seasons, or bring a pause to pre-season preparations. One of the ways in which these sports leagues have been staying connected with their fans is through online sports or esports events, with the NBA hosting an online NBA 2K tournament, for example. This has been a welcome initiative, as a lot of online entertainment forms have grown in popularity during lockdown. Another example of such a form of entertainment is online gambling, as many people have turned to playing casino games online due to physical casinos being shut. Nevertheless, lockdowns and restrictions are being eased in a lot of places around the world, and thus there are also discussions about the return of live sports. Europe has seen football return, and there are similar plans to have the likes of the MLB restart action again at some point this year.
At the moment, it seems as if there has been some headway in talks between the MLB management and the MLB Players’ Association (MLBPA). This is welcome news for baseball fans, as it seems as if both sides want to salvage some baseball for this season, after it seemed as if talks were dead in the water earlier. Most of the discussions and deadlock had been over the resumption of training, so that matches could then be held, as well as negotiations over salaries. Another major impediment to any deal being struck was the MLBPA’s threat to file a grievance suit against the MLB. Owners attempted to renege on the agreement in March, where they had agreed to pay players based on the number of regular-season games played in 2020. The subsequent proposals and counter proposals wasted precious time, narrowing the window that the league has to play games (and suppressing the players’ earning potential).
Most baseball franchises had shut down their training complexes as well as other offices in March, after the MLB suspended all baseball activities. With front office and even coaching personnel working remotely from their homes at this time, it will be some time before we can expect to see operations resume at the pre-pandemic level. Nevertheless, there is no chance that all personnel and staff will be allowed to return to their physical offices for the time being. The MLB is likely to follow the example of other major sports around the world which have resumed, and mandate a fixed and minimum number of staff, medical personnel and coaches who would be allowed to be part of the team’s training and gameday activities. At the same time, all the players and staff would need to undergo regular testing, which could be a problem as securing enough testing kits could be a challenge, especially as they still remain in limited supply across large parts of the country. Therefore, there is still some way to go before baseball fans can see their favorites out on the diamond again, but recent events have been extremely positive, and have only paved the way towards the resumption of baseball matches in the near future.