While the chances of an actual baseball season seem to be grim with each passing day, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred still remains optimistic that some type of campaign will be orchestrated this year.
“I fully anticipate baseball will return this season,” Manfred said to reporters at a press conference on Monday.
Initially, the target dates for a new Opening Day were about as frequent as the target dates that the White House wanted to re-open the economy. However, both entities now realize that it’s much more prudent to chart the progress of COVID-19 and re-evaluate the data before any future dates are cemented.
Regardless, there have been several different season models proposed if the beginning of the 2020 campaign does indeed come to fruition. One scenario has teams playing an abbreviated season, perhaps lasting past Thanksgiving and into the winter months, utilizing neutral locations in warmer climates as sites for games.
Along those same lines, another idea is to split all 30 teams into their respective spring training leagues, setting up a potential season based out of Arizona and Florida. Conceivably, those games would be played without spectators.
According to some reports, Texas is also being considered, as it features two major league ballparks—the Astros’ Minute Maid Park and the Rangers’ soon-to-open Globe Life Field. Both facilities include retractable roofs, which could be important when considering the Texas heat and the need to guard against potential rainouts.
Most states are still under stay-at-home orders, some of which are set to expire April 30. Whether those orders are extended into May could be the determining factor in how MLB proceeds.
Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, plans to open nail salons, massage therapies, bowling alleys and gyms in his state on Friday. Restaurants and movie theaters are slated come back on line statewide next Monday. If other states follow suit, the nation could ease into recovery sooner than many expected.
Notwithstanding, Georgia has faced public scrutiny for going against the grain of the advice from doctors and the scientific community.
As reported by Jeff Todd at MLBTR, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Dr. Anthony Fauci contemplated a scenario in which there could possibly be some in-person attendance at MLB games in 2020. Labeling in-person attendance “conceivable,” Fauci nevertheless cautioned that it’s likelier the game will only return to our screens in the near-term. Ultimately, he said, “it’s gonna be the virus that determines what the timetable is.”
Anyway, players like Clayton Kershaw have expressed displeasure at a kamikaze-type of season in the desert, where players would be away from their families for months at a time.
“We all want to play baseball. I get that. I want to play baseball, too,” Kershaw said recently. “But there is something about being in the big leagues and you can’t compromise that. Playing in spring training stadiums and quarantining for months without your family and certain things like that, I don’t think that’s doable if you’re talking about doing it for four to five months.”
Mike Trout of the Angels, said last week that the Arizona plan has a lot of “red flags,” while also indicating there’s no chance that he would miss the birth of his first child.
Consequently, MLB would need to decide whether it can have families of the players stay with them or make those plans only temporary to start the season before transitioning into another phase.
What’s more, with no revenue from ticket sales, the MLB and MLB Players Association would have to come to some type of agreement on compensation.
Either way, both the teams and the league are preparing to take a huge hit with regards to revenue this year. At this stage of the game, I’m beginning to think that a season is very far out of reach. Thousands of businesses around the country have suffered drastic consequences over the past few months and some could be facing extended closures. The MLB is no exception.
Whatever happens, the health and safety of the players, the coaching staffs and other team employees need to be at the forefront of any proposed game plan.