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Economy & Business

Cardinals To Begin Pandemic-Delayed Season, But Will They Finish?

July 23, 2020 - The Cardinals have been playing in the current version of Busch Stadium since 2006.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
The Cardinals have been playing in the current version of Busch Stadium since 2006. There will be no fans in the stands on Friday when the team begins its shortened season.

The St. Louis Cardinals are finally starting the 2020 regular season in the midst of uncertainty caused by the pandemic. 

The Cards plan to begin a shortened regular season Friday night at Busch Stadium against Pittsburgh without fans in the stands. Meanwhile, players are under new guidelines in an effort to keep them healthy.

“I would say that we are doing everything possible and reasonable under the sun to keep these players safe,” said Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III. 

“No system is perfect in this situation because this is an invisible disease, and we’re trying to still learn everything about it,” he added.

Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals. The team will lose money during the regular season, he said. 7-23-20
St. Louis Cardinals

Players and staff members have been following a manual of more than 100 pages for the shortened 60-game season. The New York Times reports it includes details on coronavirus testing, what happens if a result is positive and maintaining social distancing in the players’ clubhouse.

Even with the precautions, there is no guarantee the season will be completed. DeWitt admitted he is cautiously optimistic about playing all 60 games.

“There’s just so many unknowns,” he said.

Those unknowns are raising questions among many about why Major League Baseball is adamant about playing in 2020.

Richard Sheehan, University of Notre Dame finance professor emeritus, said it boils down to a key factor.

“It’s definitely financial,” he said.

Sheehan added that big-time media contracts, including lucrative television deals, are helping to drive Major League Baseball, which can depend less on attendance than other sports.

Emeritus finance professor Richard Sheehan focused on the economics of sports at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. 7-23-20
University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

“You are more likely to be able to move forward there simply because you’re going to have some revenue sources. When you look at something that’s going to be relying more on gate revenue, then basically you’re just up a creek.” 

DeWitt downplayed the idea that money is among the biggest reasons for playing during the pandemic.

“We’ll be losing money for every game we play,” he said. “You hope to make that back in the postseason, through national playoff revenues.”

Players will receive fully prorated salaries during the short season.

DeWitt admitted that other businesses will have a much tougher time getting through the pandemic than Major League Baseball teams, which have deep-pocketed owners. But he said getting on the field is a step toward trying to return to normal.

“Where possible and safely done, we need to get out and do things,” DeWitt said. “We can’t just shut down and turtle, or all other kinds of problems come into play.”

Sheehan said playing this summer could be critical to maintaining fan interest in the coming years. 

“What do you need to do now in order to be able to move forward in 2021 and have a product on the field and have a product which is going to be popular and going to put people in the stands?” he asked.

DeWitt is confident in the team's strong fan base for future seasons and said that playing this year will help fill a void for fans.

“At least, for now, they can kind of root for their team and have that sense of optimism that there is a way to operate even during a pandemic.”

The first pitch of the season opener against Pittsburgh is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Friday.

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