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Japan postpones its baseball season even further

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Originally the NPB season — Japan’s major league — was to begin on March 20, but was postponed to April 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now the NPB is pushing it back even further.

Japanese baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito, speaking this morning:

“Unfortunately things are getting worse now . . . We’ll have a meeting with all 12 teams, but it appears like we’ll have to be prepared for an extension [to our postponement].”

Saito also said the thought of playing regular season games in empty stadiums could no longer be dismissed out of hand.

Japanese baseball initially moved to postpone its season on March 9. Soon after that there were many reports suggesting that Japan’s initial response to the outbreak had gotten the virus relatively under control. Cases have spiked in Japan of late, however, and there is increasing backlash to the government’s handling of the crisis. As of Wednesday, there were more than 2,300 cases across Japan, and 57 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Kyodo News reports that NPB is now hoping to open its regular season in late May, but did not announce a date.

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.