MINNEAPOLIS - They don’t know when it will start or how long it will be, but the Minnesota Twins are confident Major League Baseball will have a 2020 season.
The Twins and every other MLB organization were sent home from Spring Training nearly two weeks ago. Most Twins players went home, some stayed at the team’s facility in Florida. The Twins were supposed to start their defense of the 2019 American League Central Division title Thursday in Oakland, but the MLB has suspended its season until further notice due to Coronavirus concerns.
The Twins were also set to host the A’s for the Target Field opener in early April, which isn’t happening. Twins pitcher Taylor Rogers and designated hitter Nelson Cruz, both available on a conference call on Monday, aren’t concerned that there won’t be a season.
Rogers is the Twins’ representative for the players union, which negotiates with MLB on such matters.
“I think we’re all holding out hope that there will be some type of season this year. I don’t think anybody wants to get into that doomsday scenario where there’s no season,” Rogers said.
“The virus will tell us if we can make the season or not. Definitely we’re pushing as hard as we can, definitely we’re confident that it will happen and we’ll have a season. We don’t know how many games it will be. Definitely it looks like we’ll be playing baseball this year,” Cruz said.
Rogers said baseball, along with every other sport that’s on hold, is in “uncharted waters” right now and nobody knows exactly what to do.
The delayed start to the season likely means tough negotiations for MLB with the players association. There could be doubleheaders, there could be fewer games. They’ll need to find a middle ground between getting enough games in for a season, and player safety.
The delayed start, whenever that is, could also have major implications for the Twins with Minnesota weather. They’re hoping to avoid baseball at Target Field in November, but a reality looms that there will be regular season baseball in October.
“When we get down to that point we’re going to have to look at some stuff. We all know what baseball in Minnesota could look like in November,” Rogers said.
Another topic of conversation that’s come up is playing games in MLB stadiums without fans. Before the NCAA Tournament was ultimately canceled, officials considered playing conference tournaments and March Madness in empty arenas. No fans, other than families of players.
That’s not something Cruz or Rogers want to think about.
“I think the fans, the owners, everybody is on the same page. We want to play, we want to go in and give it a show for the fans. We want to go out there and show something for them to be happy. That’s not the goal, we don’t want to play with empty stadiums,” Cruz said. “We play for the fans, that’s who we play for so hopefully that’s not the case.”
The last game played without fans was in Baltimore in April of 2015. The Orioles hosted the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards, but there were no fans in the seats. The city was in civil unrest after Freddie Gray was fatally shot by police. Fans that did want to see the game had to do so through gates from outside the stadium.
While the current circumstance is far different, Rogers acknowledged it’s a possibility to play without fans. It’s something players might be open to, but hopes it doesn’t have to come to that to get a season in.
“Personally I just don’t see any situation where we can have 200 players and staff in a stadium and not have fans there. I do think people are open to it if that’s what we have to do to get the season in,” Rogers said.
For now, they’re staying home, staying busy and working out in whatever way they can so that when they get the call, they’re ready to play.