Major League Baseball’s pandemic-shortened 60-game season is finally upon us this evening, months after the league shut down in the original version of spring training as the result of the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States. The virus isn’t under control in the vast majority of the country, with only the northeast having kept percentages of positive tests and total number of hospitalizations in check over the past several weeks. In many other states, ones in which a big chunk of major league teams play, things are getting worse.
Against that public health backdrop and the significant economic impact the pandemic has had on millions of people in the country, the league is set to begin the season with a game between the Nationals and Yankees shortly after 7 PM this evening—on the same day that Juan Soto, who had been actively participating in summer camp all week, received a positive result for COVID-19 from a test he took two days ago.
Throw in that the league is still discussing a potential expanded playoff format and the fact the the Blue Jays still don’t have a place to play their home games at the time of this writing, and it doesn’t seem like the league is really prepared to pull off a season in the midst of the pandemic.
Despite all of that, MLB isn’t making it any easier to watch its games. A subscription to MLB.tv costs $59.99 for the 2020 season, a higher cost per game than the league’s streaming subscription for a normal 162-game season. Archaic blackout restrictions remain in place, too. Major League Baseball and nearly all of its franchises have benefited from public subsidies regularly over the past several decades, but the league clearly has no intention of returning a favor to a general public that is strapped for cash, starved for new entertainment, and spending far more time at home than usual, especially for this time of year.
Given the potential to give longtime baseball fans something in return for their years of loyalty to the sport and, more importantly, to get the sport in front of as many potential new fans as possible, the league should make MLB.tv free this year and lift blackout restrictions to the greatest possible extent. None of that will happen, of course, but it’s a shame that it won’t.