Fans in the stands in 2020? MLB doesn’t totally rule it out

If Major League Baseball manages to successfully start its 2020 season on July 23, fans won’t be there to see how the coronavirus continues to spread at alarming rates across the country.

But allowing fans in games in 2020 is a possibility because the league’s Operations Manual says so. The sentence left by the broken door was placed in the middle of a meaty paragraph on page 28: “Clubs may allow fans to attend games with the approval of MLB and relevant local authorities.”

However, Dodger President Stan Kasten said he doesn’t expect fans to be allowed at Dodger Stadium in the near future.

“It is not on the table any time soon,” Kasten said Friday. “Obviously, when fans are sure to show up, we’d love for that to happen, even if it’s a small number to start with. But I think we are going to stop thinking about it. “

Teams in different states are on different timelines. Texas Governor Greg Abbott this week reiterated that he wants fans to attend sporting events in the state at medium capacity soon despite rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane told reporters that “that’s the plan.” The Texas Rangers are the other MLB organization in the state.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox could allow up to 8,000 fans at their stadiums.

In California, coronavirus cases have continued to increase. Los Angeles County remains the hot spot, registering 38% of the state’s new cases in the past two weeks.

Governor Gavin Newsom has said he doesn’t imagine fanatical stadiums until a vaccine is available. This month, USC Sports Director Mike Bohn informed soccer season ticket holders that the university was planning “reduced capacity” at the Colosseum. The NHL is considering Los Angeles as one of two centers for its season restart in late July or early August. The NBA, WNBA, and MLS are scheduled to play all games in central Florida beginning in July.

“I have spoken to Los Angeles County officials, I have spoken to city officials, we all want that to happen, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon,” Kasten said. “But, of course, when that happens it would be ideal. We are in business to have fans at the stadium. That would be great. I just don’t know when that will be. “

Playing games in empty stadiums during the coronavirus outbreak was the main cause of the three-month stagnation between owners and players. They couldn’t agree on how to split the money without fans splurging on games. Finally, they agreed to disagree in a 60-game season with prorated wages.

But what if some teams are allowed to have fans in games and others aren’t? Wouldn’t that provide a home field advantage on the field and a financial advantage for clubs hosting spectators?

“That has been discussed and I think the thought is: ‘Look, there are differences in the markets all the time, right?’ Kasten said, “And who knows better than us? We have more money for the media than other markets to use an example. So I’m not going to worry about that kind of thing this year.”

In early May, the Chinese Professional Baseball League, the first major professional baseball league to launch its 2020 season, opened its stadiums for fans in Taiwan. A month later, the league relaxed the rules, allowing people to sit closer together and eat and drink while playing.

Taiwan, with a population of nearly 24 million, has reported six confirmed cases of coronavirus since May 8. The United States reported a new record of 44,726 cases on Friday.

The pattern could be reversed in the next four months, before a World Series champion is crowned in October, if the season survives that long. But the unknowns are infinite.

“At no point in this dilemma have we known what was going to happen four weeks in the future,” said Kasten. “We have not made it. Not once, right? So I don’t know what will happen in four weeks. I just don’t. “