MLB COVID-19
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As baseball fans wait for MLB and the MLB Players Association to potentially reach an agreement on a plan for the 2020 season, the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic could provide another hurdle in any effort to return to the diamond.

While both MLB owners and the MLBPA are trying to negotiate a plan for this season, a coronavirus outbreak across baseball on Friday is now bringing everything into question.

MLB official: Virus a “much bigger threat” to season, plan “could all fall apart quickly”

The Miami Marlins started allowing their players to return to the team’s spring training facility in late March. Soon after, many other organizations welcomed back their players to training facilities in Florida and Arizona to help them prepare for a potential season.

Unfortunately, MLB experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 cases this week. The Philadelphia Phillies had five players test positive for the virus and they were among more than a dozen MLB players and staff to contract COVID-19. Following the sudden increase in cases, MLB closed all of its spring training facilities for a thorough cleaning and to install better safety protocols.

MLB’s negotiations with the players’ union over the length of the season and player salaries have gone on for months, with the latest setback coming on Friday. As one senior MLB official told ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, though, this isn’t even the league’s biggest problem.

Even if both sides can agree on the financial structure for the season, there still isn’t a consensus on safety protocols. The negotiations have picked up in recent days, due to the increased number of COVID-19 cases, but there remains a significant concern among at-risk players and their families.

The NCAA just allowed student-athletes to return to campus this month and there has been a massive outbreak, including 23 football players at Clemson University. If MLB can even bring players back soon, there would likely be a similar problem.

Keep in mind, MLB is still planning for its teams to play at their home stadiums. Given Florida, Arizona and Texas are reporting record-high COVID-19 cases each day, this hurdle to a 2020 MLB season seems difficult to overcome.