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When will MLB be back to normal?

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, Al Yellon has a post up wondering when/if MLB with be back to “normal”. It is a good question. I have this feeling we are going to be redefining normal in the future but let’s talk about it.

I get the feeling that the idea of playing in Florida this summer might be over. News reports has them 1,413 new cases today and 25,000 total. I don’t think I’d went to go there if I was player.

Al quotes this from a Peter Gammons’ piece in the Athletic.

“In 2020,” the official continued, “we just have to try to get the game back. Then we have 2021 and 2022 to rebuild attendance and revenues, to determine where that takes free agency, arbitration, draft and other player compensations. Let’s be realistic — baseball is not going to be the same, just as the world as we know it won’t be the same. What we have to do now and in the next two years have to be focused on what we want baseball to be in 2023.”

Three years seems like a long time, but I can imagine that it will be awhile before some of us field comfortable going to a stadium. Someone on Twitter asked if ‘you would go to your favorite restaurant if it reopened next month?’ I don’t think I would. So going into a ball park with 20,000 other people, that will take me a while. Until there is a vaccine I don’t see anyway I’d want to be in the middle of a crowd of people.

Gammon also wonders if baseball can survive in some of the smaller cities, and Florida:

If Florida is severely damaged for two or three years due to the coronavirus spread, can baseball continue to exist in that state? Can Cleveland continue to maintain major league baseball in a northern Rust Belt state? The club has one of the smartest and most creative managements in sports, but the city has seen a 58 percent decline in population since the team last won a World Series. Austin, Charlotte, Nashville and Portland all have more residents now.

So, in a different country, does MLB rethink contraction? Personally, I felt ill when I heard someone who has known the Orioles ownership inside and out for more than 30 years say this spring, “I am very worried about the Orioles’ future five or 10 years from now.”

Cleveland’s population is 384,000 and dropping. It is hard to imagine a city that small being able to keep an MLB team going.

There are other questions.

Will player salaries have to come down? It will take years for baseball to bounce back financially, will the players share the pain? The game itself can come back, but it will be a long time before the team are making the same amount of money they were a year ago.

Al points out that people have been suggesting that the MLB might look to expand as soon as possible, so that expansion money can prop up the league. But Al suggests it will be hard to find anyone wanting to pay expansion fees. Would you be wanting to join a league that will be trying to rebuild for the next several years?

The other question is getting the minor leagues going again. How long will that take?

Different states, different counties, will have different rules on when they will allow people to group together.

Minor league teams don’t bring in the money that major league tams do. They get all their revenue from attendance and merchandising. They are generally run on a shoestring. I don’t know how they will be able to weather one season without revenue. Some might go out of business. MLB wanted to reduce the number of MiLB teams, this just might do it for them.

So what do you think, when will MLB be back to normal?