No beginning in sight for Japan’s baseball season

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We’ve been keeping track of baseball news from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan because those countries were affected by COVID-19 earlier than we were and thus, presumably, their roadmap-back-to-baseball might be instructive for what happens here.

They’re playing in Taiwan already. We learned over the weekend that Korea’s KBO is looking to start play on May 1. Japan, however, is facing a much longer track back: NPB’s commissioner announced on Friday that there is no longer the possibility of the league beginning in May. In fact, they have stopped announcing tentative start dates altogether.

Both leagues — the Pacific and the Central — were scheduled to begin play on March 20. Opening day was then reset for April 10 and then postponed again to April 24. Earlier this month, the teams gave up on fixing a starting time but held out hope for play some time in May.

Japan, after seeing an initial peak and then a decline in COVID-19 cases, has experienced a new surge in cases that threatens to overwhelm its entire medical system. Their overall number of cases and number of fatalities is small compared to many other countries. Experts have noted that a lack of protective equipment, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reluctance to introduce shutdowns and restrictions to deal with the outbreak sooner due to his fear that it might harm the economy — and his political fighting with governors who wanted tougher measures introduced more quickly — have made the situation far worse than it would otherwise have been.

Sound familiar?

There will not be baseball in Japan for some time. I suspect we’ll find the same thing here.