Rendering of new signage for Truist Park, formerly SunTrust Park.
Photo: Atlanta Braves
Photo: Atlanta Braves

What happens if Braves’ season is delayed beyond April

Major League Baseball is frozen as the country tries to stop the coronavirus from spreading. The league decided Thursday to cancel the remainder of spring training and delay the start of regular season by at least two weeks (it will assuredly be a longer delay, as many in the industry have noted).

Here are five early thoughts (in no particular order) about the Braves and what’s looming whenever MLB resumes:

The time needed for players to catch back up

Spring training is required for pitchers to build up their innings in preparation for regular every-fifth-day outings. Now, the work of the last month will erode. Pitchers will require a sizable amount of time to ready for the season. Some have opined a rebooted camp could last two-to-three weeks, but obviously it’s a fluid situation and impossible to delve into without knowing when/how MLB will proceed.

Braves starter Cole Hamels

Hamels was far behind schedule due to right shoulder discomfort. He was set to miss at least the first month of the regular season, and possibly even more time. With MLB looking at, realistically, a mid-to-late May start at the earliest, the Braves potentially won’t have to worry as much about covering Hamels’ missed innings.

How MLB/the Braves handle camps reopening

As cited earlier, the players will need time to get reacclimated. One question on everyone’s mind: Whenever that happens, where will it be? The Braves could return to North Port, Fla., for the allotted time (which again, many believe, should at least be a couple weeks). They could also hold workouts at Truist Park. 

Minor leaguers are another unknown. When will teams have to cut down to 26 men? If teams hold workouts in their home market, how will they handle housing the minor leaguers? The Braves have a small advantage in Triple-A Gwinnett being just up the road, but it’s nonetheless a complicated situation with no past blueprint to follow.

And how the league handles service time with its players will be another ongoing talking point. There are many future financial uncertainties looming whenever the league resumes.

Length of the season

Red Sox president Sam Kennedy made waves when he said MLB hopes it can still play 162 games. That’s extremely difficult to fathom for a variety of reasons, including the obvious weather complications if MLB played beyond October, the scheduling quandary and unavoidably trimming down the offseason.

The likelier scenario is baseball would play a shortened season for the first time since 1995, when the Braves defeated the Indians in the World Series. It’s nearly impossible to peg an estimated number of games as the situation continues changing.

The fans, employees and scheduling

NBA teams continue issuing statements that they’ll take care of their arena workers in the season’s absence. Numerous star players, including Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Zion Williamson and Steph Curry, are donating money toward that cause. MLB teams will be tasked with similar circumstances soon.

The Braves will have more information on tickets later, but especially regarding season ticket holders, how teams handle previously sold tickets will be a major community interest. 

On top of that, teams also will play an uneven number of home and away games, should MLB use the current schedules. They’d also play unbalanced schedules.

For example, if MLB started on May 25 — strictly an example for this exercise — the Braves and Mets would have missed four head-to-head meetings that equates to 13 games of a 19-game season series. That’s unfair to both clubs as they battle for the National League East crown in a shortened season.

Under that premise, the Braves would lose seven games against the Marlins, but only three against the Phillies and none against the Nationals.

Further, the Braves and Padres were set to play all six of their games in the season’s first two weeks, so baseball’s recent decree already eliminated their season series. If the delay extended into late May or beyond, the Braves could also miss season series with the Giants, Diamondbacks and Cardinals. If it was delayed beyond the second week of June, the Braves and Dodgers — two of the NL’s powers — wouldn’t play each other.

Ultimately, there won’t be a perfect answer. But how MLB moves forward with its amended schedule will undoubtedly play a factor in postseason races.

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