Red Sox: How the Coronavirus may impact Boston and the MLB

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 05: The sun sets behind Fenway Park during the second inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins on September 05, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 05: The sun sets behind Fenway Park during the second inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins on September 05, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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The Boston Red Sox are one among thirty teams that collectively the Coronavirus will potentially force changes on schedules and a multitude of other areas.

Major League Baseball and the Red Sox may suffer the consequences of the rampant escalation of the Coronavirus that has already impacted the schedule of South Korea and Japanese leagues. MLB has a history of schedule disruptions, but those were primarily labor issues and war, but baseball did suffer in another pandemic.

In 1918 the horrific Spanish Flu Epidemic was a worldwide death plague with an estimated 50-100 million deaths across the globe and 650,000 in America. The specter of death did not leave baseball unscathed as several players, a noted umpire, and a sportswriter all succumbed.

If there was any positive news from an MLB perspective is that the flu’s most virulent period was near the end of an already war shortened season and drifted into the fall and winter months.

Labor issues became a focal point regarding the schedule and in one case potentially cost the Red Sox a pennant. In 1972 the strike happened the first two weeks of the season and baseball opted for an unbalanced schedule. The Red Sox played one less game than the champion Tigers and lost by just one-half game.

In 1994 the strike ended the season and with it the World Series. Two footnotes of interest were the fact Tony Gwynn lost his chance at .400 when hitting “just” .394. The other is the Montreal Expos being denied a possible World Series with the best record in baseball (74-40) when the season ended. Would a WS have saved the franchise in Montreal?

Just what will baseball do? This is also directly related to the Red Sox since whatever is done will be done collectively. The Red Sox have already instituted some precautionary steps. That leaves the questions as the possible outbreak intensifies.

Large crowds are already being discouraged for obvious reasons and baseball generates large crowds. Will they play games with limited attendance? Games in an empty stadium? Much will certainly depend on how the coronavirus proceeds. Maybe we’ll catch a break and it will dissipate?

An issue that is relevant to a shortened schedule is naturally a monetary one. Are salaries adjusted? Is advertising revenue adjusted? And is media contracts also reviewed and changed? For those who purchase tickets will they be able to be refunded even if games are played?

Then there is the issue of players who are stricken and can no longer play. Will their contracts remain on the luxury tax? I am sure MLB is working on various scenarios that will or should answer the questions I pose.

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The long-term ramifications have the dire potential to be a potential poison pill for MLB. Just how will fans respond? Unlike WWII when attendance was down, but dramatically increased after the war ended will the same play out with baseball? Fans are drifting away from MLB and this could potentially escalate that. Then there is the selfish interest – what about the Red Sox?

Will possible schedule manipulation create another 1972? Then there are the implications on the roster especially for players who are unfortunate enough to be stricken. That certainly has the roster and most certainly performance impacts. We see that almost daily with a talented player – invariable a pitcher – go on the IL – sometimes for the season.

There is also the development situation as decisions filter down to the minor league level. Just what will the circumstances be in the minors? Will baseball continue even with empty seats to ensure player development remains?

Next. Lucroy making a case for a roster spot. dark

What is happening is a disruption of routine and baseball is part of the routine. I will certainly not trade my stash of toilet paper for a game ticket nor will I dramatically alter my lifestyle and that may be a less cautionary approach, but I will go to games – if they are played.