St. Louis Cardinals COVID-19 Time Line

photo: Rob Manfred (Bill Streicher/Imagn)

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 15, but due to COVID-19 remaining a major news story, this continues to be updated regularly.



On Tuesday, April 14, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred articulated the conditions that would be required for the game to open its indefinitely-postponed 2020 regular season.

“The only decision we have made, the only real plan that we have, is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation is improved to the point that we’re comfortable that we can play games in a manner that is safe for our players, our employees, our fans and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely,” Manfred said.

“Right now, it’s largely a waiting game. During that period, as you might expect any business would, we have engaged in contingency planning. We thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios but again the key is the improvement in the public health situation.” (FOX Business)

The reality of the situation here in mid-April seems light years away from where we were not long ago. In the second week of March, spring training games had progressed past the midpoint of the schedule as concern over the threat of the coronavirus slowly began to build.

Let’s go back and recap events during this recent six-week period. It illustrates how greater awareness about and attention to the virus, just as it relates to this small subset of life about which we share a common interest, has changed Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals, likely forever.

March 1

Florida’s governor announces a public health emergency after the state’s first two COVID-19 cases are confirmed. (State of Florida)

March 7

In a meeting with players, Cardinals officials agree to provide the players baseballs and other items they can pre-sign and pass out to minimize hand-to-hand contact with fans, if they choose. MLB is said to be working on “policies and habits” to prevent the spread of the virus. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

March 9

Major League Baseball remains committed to playing a full slate of spring training games and starting its regular season on time on March 26, but joins the NBA in closing clubhouses to media to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus. (ESPN)

March 11

The governor of one of the early virus hot spots, the State of Washington, announces a restriction on gatherings of 250 people or more. The Seattle Mariners begin working with Major League Baseball on plans to play regular-season games in front of fans at alternate sites, rather than in empty stadiums. (Wall Street Journal)

A specific replacement location for Mariners games is mentioned to be Phoenix, which is Seattle’s spring training home. (This idea would be greatly expanded later.) (The Athletic)

The NBA suspends the remainder of its season, the first US sport to do so. The reason – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive, soon to be followed by other players. This drives a major change in how professional sports react to the threat. (NBA announcement)

March 12

MLB teams are pulling scouts off the road and sending them home. (ESPN)

MLB announces the suspension of spring training games effective at 4:00 p.m. ET that day, and a two-week delay to the March 26 opening to the regular season (April 9). (MLB release)

With the above announcement made during the game, the Cardinals and Marlins continue their in-process televised spring training contest at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL until its conclusion. Matt Carpenter said, “It felt like the most meaningless baseball game in the history of the sport.” (AP)

Minor League Baseball announces an indefinite delay to its scheduled April 9 opening. (MiLB release)

The NCAA cancels all remaining winter and spring tournaments (including the College World Series, with Omaha also to have been the site for MLB’s First-Year Player Draft from June 10-12). (NCAA release)

The governor of Illinois prohibits gatherings of 250 people or more through May 1 and sporting events to be either cancelled or played without fans. (Chicago Tribune)

March 13

The Cardinals are closing their spring training camp. (MLB.com)

Cardinals minor leaguers are being sent home. (KMOX)

The MLB Players Association (MLBPA) announces that its members can either remain in camp, head to their MLB city or return to their homes. (The Athletic)

Boston Red Sox CEO says empty stadiums and spring training parks remain on the table as possible locales for a season start. (USA TODAY)

Rumors: MLB still hopes to play 162 games by tacking postponed games onto the end of the regular season schedule. (USA TODAY) Playoffs could be held in November with the World Series in a neutral site. (Craig Mish)

Cardinals issue a release that indicates no regular season games are cancelled, just postponed. Fans are advised to hold onto their tickets. (Cardinals release)

March 14

Cardinals coaches schedule informal weekday workouts for the approximately 15-25 players remaining at the Jupiter complex. (Post-Dispatch)

Rumor: The regular season may not begin until at least May 1, with a shortened season more likely than a full 162-game slate. (The Athletic)

March 15

Baseball’s first confirmed COVID-19 case is a Yankees minor leaguer. All of that organization’s minor leaguers are to be quarantined for two weeks. (A second positive test was disclosed two days later.) (The Athletic)

March 16

MLB announces that it will follow the directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to not assemble groups of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks (until May 10). The opening of the regular season is pushed back to an undetermined date as a result. (MLB release)

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred states that the league still hopes to play 162 games. Teams are asked to limit informal workouts, and most remaining Cardinals players head home. (Post-Dispatch)

March 17

In a cross-MLB announcement, the 30 teams commit $1 million each to assist seasonal and game day workers. (MLB.com)

The Cardinals add that they will honor per diem for their minor league players. (Cardinals via Twitter)

March 18

Rumor: MLB and the union are working on revised compensation plans for major and minor leaguers, service time and the draft. (The Athletic)

Rumor: Already sent-home Cardinals minor league players will be receiving $25 per day ($175 per week). (Note: The organization’s minor leaguers are not paid a salary during spring training, but receive $37 per week, three daily meals and a hotel room while in camp.) (Baseball America)

March 19

MLB announced that minor leaguers in all 30 organizations will receive a standard $400 weekly allowance through April 8, the day prior to the original minor league Opening Day. (This supersedes each team’s individual approach, which for the Cardinals was the $175 per week previously reported by Baseball America.) (ESPN)

March 20

MLB overrules MiLB’s decision requiring its umpires to return spring training per diem payments and allows minor league umpires to file for unemployment without voiding their contract if their assigned leagues do not begin on time. (Close Call Sports)

March 25

Rumor: Further, but still tentative details on pay proposals for players and employees, potential for doubleheaders during season and neutral-site playoffs are highlighted. (ESPN)

Manfred states his “optimistic outlook is that at some point in May we’ll be gearing back up”. (ESPN via The Athletic)

March 26

The Cardinals inform their full-time employees that their pay will be covered through April 30. (The Athletic)

St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright is among the first of a number of Major League players to donate money to minor leaguers. Specifically, Wainwright and his wife Jenny are providing $250,000 in assistance to players in the Cardinals organization. (More Than Baseball release)

March 27

MLB and the Players Association announce a comprehensive agreement that includes players receiving a full year of service time even if no games are played, commitment by owners to advance $170 million of 2020 non-refundable pay to MLB players during April and May, a delayed, less expensive and much-shortened amateur draft, delayed international signings and much more. (ESPN)

March 28

Cardinals Hall of Famer Jim Edmonds is hospitalized with pneumonia and soon diagnosed with the coronavirus. The retired outfielder was released two days later and is recovering. (Edmonds Instagram) Since Edmonds had been in Cardinals camp earlier in the month, the team investigated but came to no conclusions about his condition when coming into contact with team employees. 10 days later, one of Edmonds’ daughters, a nanny and his girlfriend also tested positive, but all are apparently ok. (Post-Dispatch)

March 31

MLB announces that the $400 per week allowances to minor leaguers, first announced on March 19, will be extended through May 31. In an official notification from MLB to MiLB, minor league player contracts are suspended and players will not be supplied to minor league teams due to the national emergency. (ESPN)

April 1

The June 13-14 Cardinals-Cubs series in London is cancelled. (MLB release)

April 4

President Donald Trump holds a conference call with many professional sports executives, including Manfred, and urges them to resume competition “as soon as we can.” (AP)

April 7

Rumor: “Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are focusing on a plan backed by federal health officials that could have players in training camps by May and games soon thereafter.” This is informally dubbed the “Arizona Plan”, bringing all 30 teams to the Phoenix area to play an altered season. (ESPN)

April 8

The very morning after the above ESPN story drew considerable national attention, MLB issues a press release. MLB acknowledges that alternatives to start the season are being considered but no approvals for any plan have been requested or received from health officials or the MLBPA. Safety is reiterated as the primary concern. (MLB release)

April 10

Rumor: Details of another scenario reportedly under consideration by MLB would have the 15 Arizona spring training teams play in three divisions in their state and the 15 Florida-based teams do the same. The Cardinals’ division would include the nearby Marlins, Mets, Astros and Nationals. After an expanded playoff, the World Series would feature the Cactus and Grapefruit League champs. (USA TODAY)

April 14

Florida’s governor labels World Wrestling Entertainment an essential business, with the mayor of Orange County calling it “critical to Florida’s economy”. The decision allows the WWE to restart its televised shows from an empty studio and nearby university. The order was not specific to WWE, and as such, opens the door for the potential for other sports to resume in the state, as well. (ESPN)

Through their Cardinals Care charitable arm, the team announces a doubling of the assistance fund for 1,350 seasonal and game day workers, including vendor employees. An additional $1 million is committed beyond that announced on March 17. (Cardinals release)

27 of the 30 MLB organizations, including the Cardinals, are participating in a massive coronavirus antibody study, with up to 10,000 tests to be taken nationwide. (ESPN)

MLB executives take a 35 percent pay cut for 2020 and commit to pay 1,200 full and part-time league employees through May 31. (ESPN)

Manfred says baseball will not return until receiving clearance from health care officials and downplays the reported contingency plans for starting the season. He reiterates that safety for all involved is paramount. (FOX Business)

Arizona’s governor says the MLB season can be held in the Phoenix area, with all 30 teams setting shop at spring training and college facilities without fans – provided safety for all personnel can be assured. (Arizona Republic)

April 15

Manfred states, “I think it’s incumbent upon us to turn over every stone to try to play the game in 2020 if there’s any way we can in the environment,” The commissioner notes that 40% of MLB operating revenue comes from gate and gate-related areas and he expects further salary-related negotiations with the MLBPA before playing. Even before current-year salary issues are resolved, Manfred sounds a warning about next season, as well. “There’s no question that what’s going on now will have an impact on ’21,” he said. (AP)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, endorses an approach for sports teams to begin play that seems similar to MLB’s Arizona Plan. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put them in big hotels, wherever you want to play. Keep them very well surveilled,” he said. “Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.” (Good Luck America)

April 16

Owners and players disagree over a key detail apparently not documented in their March 27 agreement – can player salaries be reduced beyond a pro-rated number of games if the contests are held in empty stadiums? Owners say, “yes,” while players assert the associated revenue decrease was assumed in the initial negotiations. (The Athletic)

Tony Clark (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

April 20

MLB players are not willing to discuss a further reduction in pay if games are played in empty stadiums. “That negotiation is over,” MLBPA union head Tony Clark said. (AP)

The Cardinals join the MLB staff and a number of other teams in agreeing to pay all non-playing employees through May 31. The team’s prior announcement (on March 26) covered April only. (Ken Rosenthal via Twitter)

A third alternative for MLB to resume play is reportedly being considered – one which would have three hubs, with Texas joining Arizona and Florida. (CBS)

April 21

Manfred suspends uniform employee contracts, effective May 1. This enables MLB teams to lay off or cut the pay of as many as 9,000 employees, including major and minor league managers, coaches, trainers and full-time scouts. (AP)

April 23

Prominent MLB players Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright speak out against proposed plans that would keep players sequestered away from their families for four to five months. (The Cardinal Nation)

April 28

Against the backdrop of a lawsuit filed a week earlier by fans seeking refunds for tickets to “postponed” games, MLB reportedly informs its teams they are allowed to announce refund policies for unplayed games. Further details are TBA. (The Cardinals had already been working with fans on an individual basis, but without a public announcement.) (LA Times)

MLB officials are reportedly discussing a mid-June to July 4 start to the season. The schedule would consist of 80-100 games perhaps starting in neutral sites but with the hope of returning to home stadiums later in the season. The schedule would run through October, with neutral-site playoffs in November and the World Series in late November or early December. (The Athletic via CBS)

Later the same day, another article suggested regular season play may be organized around three geographic divisions with no games scheduled across them to minimize travel. It also noted that spring training would be in its normal locations and run 18-21 days. (USA TODAY)

MLB intends to hold the 2020 First-Year Player Draft on its original June 10 date, but virtually, not in Omaha. (Jon Heyman)

Dr, Anthony Fauci issues a reminder that testing is not yet adequate in availability and speed of results to allow sports to safely return and that if games can begin in 2020, players will likely required to be isolated in their off time. (NY Times)

April 29

The Cardinals formally announce their ticket refund policy for April and May games. (St. Louis Cardinals)

April 30

In yet another scenario to open the season, MLB is reportedly considering resuming spring training (with internal scrimmages instead of games) in their home ballparks and not return to Arizona and Florida at all. After three weeks, they would then flow into the regular season. The owners’ motivation is to save time and money, but the necessary testing and approvals to play in 30 ballparks (or alternate scenarios if this is not entirely possible) remain open questions. (USA TODAY)

The Cardinals are seeking tax credit under the CARES Act to retain full-time employees. The team does not qualify for the Payroll Protection Program. (Riverfront Times)

Bill DeWitt explains that the “lion’s share” of the team’s revenues are attendance related due to a smaller television contract than many other teams. (This compares to an estimated 40% of revenues being game day-related across MLB.) (590 Radio)

The MLB Players Association rejects an initiative from MLB to further limit the money allocated for player bonuses in the 2020 First-Year Player Draft. The two sides are discussing changes to the plan agreed to on March 27. (The Athletic)

May 1

MLB umpires, who were compensated through April, will continue to be paid, but at a 30 percent reduction for 2020. Instant replay may not be used in 2020, a necessity if non-MLB sites lacking the needed technology are used for games. (USA TODAY)

May 4

Former MLB player Trevor Plouffe tweeted that he was told by multiple sources that spring training will resume on June 10 and the regular season will begin in home ballparks on July 1. This was almost immediately disputed by major media voices as well as union head Tony Clark. Yet the feeling among some insiders is that these dates do represent MLB’s most aggressive and optimistic hopes. (NBC Sports)

May 8

The 2020 First-Year Player Draft will be just five rounds and held on June 10-11, per multiple national media sources. All except the first $100,000 per player will be deferred to 2021. As a result, the total number of draftees will be just 160, down from 1,217 in 2019. Non-drafted players cannot be signed for more than $20,000 each, limiting free agent signings as well. (ESPN)

May 9

MLB is preparing a proposal to bring to the owners on Monday, May 11 and players on Tuesday. It would have the 80-game season begin in early July in home ballparks and games scheduled on a regional basis. Rosters would be expanded to as many as 45-50 players and seven teams per league would qualify for the playoffs. The designated hitter would be used in all contests. Players will be asked to accept a percentage of revenue rather than full salaries.  (The Athletic) This article provides additional detail on the underlying financials. (The Athletic)

May 11

Various state and local officials are polled, with a variety of views of how soon baseball could be allowed to be played in their cities. (USA TODAY)

MLB’s proposal to players reportedly includes 50 percent revenue sharing. Rosters would be 30 players with 20 others on a taxi squad. Baseball would run until early November only. (USA TODAY)

However, the MLBPA rejects the revenue sharing concept even before it could be formally presented, with Clark calling it a salary cap and a “non-starter”. (CBS via The Athletic)

May 12

The initial meeting between MLB and the MLBPA did not include the controversial revenue sharing proposal. In addition to economics, the session also covered health and safety, with an 80-page detailed document coming soon. (The Athletic)

Arizona’s governor announces his state is open for major sports to play without spectators. (AP) Florida’s leader was right behind with a similar sales pitch. (Anthony Slater)

May 14

In an appearance on CNN, Manfred expresses optimism that the season can begin. He outlines testing and positive results protocols and notes that players can opt out of participating in 2020 if they prefer. (CBS)

May 16

MLB claims that with player prorated salaries it will lose $640,000 per game if no fans can attend and the season will generate a $4 billion loss. Hence, players need to accept revenue sharing. (AP)

May 17

Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said, “We have about 200 minor leaguers. I don’t see a path to all of them playing minor league baseball this summer.” He did acknowledge there could be a taxi squad-like capability to supply replacement players for MLB this season. (KMOX Radio)

May 18

Some are questioning the accuracy and completeness of MLB’s projected loss estimates for the 2020 season (see May 16). (Fangraphs) (Forbes)

May 17

MLB delivers to the MLB Players Association a 67-page Health and Safety Protocol document for the 2020 season. The union provided feedback several days later. (ESPN)

May 22

The Cardinals will pay full-time employees through June and begin controlled reopening of the Jupiter complex. (Post-Dispatch)

May 26

Owners propose MLB players accept a prorated portion of their previously agreed-to reduced salaries. The highest paid players would absorb the biggest cuts, yielding as much as 50% of their earlier prorated pay, therefore receiving about 25% of a full season’s salary. Players did not react positively. (USA TODAY)

May 28

The MLBPA is preparing a counter-proposal for a longer regular season, 100 rather than 82 games, while receiving their full prorated salaries. (The Athletic)

May 31

The specifics of the player proposal include a 114-game regular season starting June 30 and running through October, opt-outs for those who do not want to participate, two years of expanded playoffs including World Series that could run until after Thanksgiving and agreement to take up to $100 million in salary deferrals if the playoffs are shortened or canceled. (The Athletic)

June 1

MLB is rumored to be willing to pay full prorated salaries for a 50-60-game schedule only. (Jeff Passan via Twitter)

June 3 

MLB is rejecting the 114-game player proposal. The owners believe they have the right to enforce a 50-game regular season. (Jeff Passan via Twitter)

June 4

The MLB Players Association issues a press release in which they state: “The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.” The two sides appear to be deadlocked on the subject of playing the 2020 regular season. (MLBPA release)

June 8

The owners deliver a new proposal for 76 games which adds player risk if there is no postseason. Players would receive 50 percent of pro rata salaries if there is no postseason, 75 percent if there is. In other words, this offer represents a 50 percent per-game pay cut with a potential upside of a 25 percent cut. The money is comparable to the initial owner proposal, which was rejected. Players still want 100 percent pro rata salary. (Evan Drellich, The Athletic tweet)

June 9

The MLBPA counters with a proposed season of 89 games with a full prorated share of salary and expanded playoffs for both 2020 and 2021. The owners are expected to reject it. (Jeff Passan tweet)

June 10

Manfred *guarantees* baseball will be played in 2020. Even if no agreement between owners and players can be reached, he has right to impose play. (MLB Network video at 3:27)

June 12

MLB proposes a 72-game season starting July 14, with 80% guarantee of prorated salaries with a postseason, 70% with no postseason. 29-man rosters for the first month. Players also have opt-out. Deadline is Sunday for MLBPA response. They are expected to reject the proposal. (Bob Nightengale/USA TODAY Twitter)

June 13

The Players Association  rejected MLB’s latest proposal and will not counter. The union asked MLB to inform it of how many games it intends to play and when players should report. (MLBPA press release)

June 15

MLB informed the MLBPA there would be no 2020 season unless the players waive all legal claims against the league. This would appear to include both not negotiating in good faith to play as many games as possible as well as potential health and safety concerns and puts the entire season in serious jeopardy. (Bill Shaikin, LA Times twitter)

June 15

Manfred backs off his June 10 pronouncement that he is 100% sure there will be a 2020 MLB season. Now the commissioner is “not confident”. (ESPN) Clark indicates the players are “disgusted” by this turn of events. (MLBPA press release)

June 17

Following the first in-person meeting between Manfred and Clark since March, held the prior evening, MLB makes a new offer to the MLBPA. This consists of a 60-game schedule starting July 19, full pro-rated pay, no grievances allowed and both designated hitter and expanded playoffs in 2020 and 2021. The players reportedly want closer to 70 games. (MLB Trade Rumors summarizing many tweets)

June 18

The MLBPA formally counters with a 70-game proposal that would reportedly cost the owners about $250 MM more in player salaries than their 60-game offer of the day before.  (Jeff Passan, ESPN twitter)

June 19

Eight Philadelphia Phillies – five players and three staffers – in their Clearwater, Florida facility have tested positive for the virus, with other team employees’ test results pending. Camp has been closed. Cases among the general population in Florida are rising. (Jim Salisbury, NBC)

Other MLB teams with positive tests and camp closure following include the Blue Jays and Giants. Later reports had approximately 40 individuals having tested positive across the 30 teams.

June 19

MLB officially informs the MLBPA that they will not be submitting a counter-proposal to the union’s request for a 70-game season. The two sides remain about $300 million apart. (MLBPA press release)

June 21 

Before MLBPA players vote on whether to accept the most recent MLB proposal of 60 games or allow Manfred to mandate a season of his desired length, Manfred wrote a letter to Clark offering to roll back the designated hitter and expanded playoffs in 2021 in an encouragement to accept the 60-game proposal. (Jeff Passan twitter)

June 22

The MLBPA Executive Board votes 33-5 to reject MLB’s latest proposal. The two sides will continue work on health protocols and MLB can impose a regular season under the terms of the March 26 agreement. (MLBPA press release)

MLB responds with a letter, stating an intent to play the season of a to-be-determined number of games – if the MLBPA agrees within 24 hours to their health and safety protocol document (including players signing a waiver) and the players are able to report by July 1. (MLB statement)

The regular season would begin around July 24 and be 60 games in length. (USA TODAY)

June 23

The two sides have agreed to a 60-game season running from July 23 or 24 through September 27. Players will report to their home cities for Spring Training 2.0 on July 1 with camps restarting on July 3. Up to 60 players can be included in camp. Season will open with 30 active players, dropping to 28 then 26 each two weeks after. The remainder of the 60 players will be assigned to an alternate training camp location. For the Cardinals, it will Springfield, MO. MLB teams will play 40 games in-division, with the other 20 against the same division in the other league (for the Cardinals, the AL Central). (MLB statement) (MLBPA statement)

Summary of the details of the plans to play in 2020. (The Cardinal Nation)

June 30

Minor League Baseball officially cancels its 2020 season, confirming the inevitable. (MiLB release)

July 1

A total of 45 Cardinals players are invited to Summer Camp, which opens officially on July 1. Up to 15 more are expected in Summer Camp South in Springfield, MO starting on July 14, with details to be announced later. (The Cardinal Nation)

July 3

As MLB camps open, preliminary test results are released. About 80% of personnel tested indicate a relatively low positive rate of 1.2%. (ESPN’s Marly Rivera via Twitter/MLB release)

July 4

As positive tests mushroom across MLB and players opt out of the season, the Cardinals have none in the latter category, but an estimated eight players, primarily pitchers, are not in Summer Camp. P Giovanny Gallegos remains at home in Mexico. Three others, Ps Genesis Cabrera and Ricardo Sanchez and 3B Elehuris Montero, tested positive, but are asymptomatic. The trio is hoped to miss about five days, per manager Mike Shildt. The status of others, including Ps Carlos Martinez, Junior Fernandez and Alex Reyes, have not been shared. Roster replacements are being considered. (The Cardinal Nation)

July 6

Mozeliak said players and staff were not comfortable practicing Monday without Friday’s test results. There has been “frustration in camp”. Because of delivery problem (courier not in operation over the weekend), those tests were not delivered to the testing facility until Monday morning. The team was expecting the results later Monday, but they were delayed until Tuesday. Several other MLB teams experienced similar delays over the holiday weekend. All Cardinals test results were negative, enabling all available players to work out on Tuesday. (The Cardinal Nation)

July 7

The Cardinals add three non-roster pitchers to their Summer Camp roster to help cover for those sitting out. (The Cardinal Nation)

What is next?

Who knows? But we will be here to cover it. Thank you for reading!


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