Major League Baseball, as one would expect, is pretty desperate to get games going for this season. They, as well as players, are losing out on a lot of money for as long as this absence due to the COVID-19 outbreak around the world lasts. They are leaving no stone unturned as they look for solutions to bring the sport back as soon as possible. Whispers and reports have been growing for the last week or so that they have been strongly considering having all 30 teams go down to Arizona to live in semi-isolation down there and play the games in the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field as well as some spring training facilities. It appears that is their focus right now, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that came through late Monday night.
There’s a lot going on in this report and I’m not going to cover all of it here so definitely click that link to get the full picture. There are some interesting main bullet points here. First of all, it is said that the league is thinking they may be able to get things up and running by May, which is much earlier than most of us expected. That’s acknowledged as being aggressive, however, and a June start date is mentioned as more likely. That still feels early to me. The plan would essentially require players and coaches and umpires and whoever else would be traveling with teams — the exact personnel involved is still being hammered out according to the report — to live in isolation in hotels without their families or the comfort of a real home for however long they have to, which could end up being four or five months.
Passan also mentions some possibilities like players sitting in the stands and robot umpires and banning mound visits for social distancing purposes, none of which makes no sense to me unless you’re having the catcher stand six feet from the hitter or the first baseman not being allowed to hold runners on. There’s just no way to consistently keep baseball players away from each other. The umpire one at least makes a little more sense since many of the umps are in a higher-risk age bracket. Things like seven inning double headers has also been discussed.
Like I said, there’s a lot going on in this report and it’s far from set in stone that this is going to happen, but baseball is clearly motivated to by the first league back in action with a two-to-three week spring training to start things off. One of the bigger obstacles, I would think, is getting players to buy in to playing and living in essentially a bubble for so long. It’s one thing to self isolate in big homes, it’s quite another to do so in a hotel without their families for months on end. They’d also need to find enough fields to play every day — not every Cactus League team has their own stadium — as well as figure out what to do about day games in Arizona’s summer heat.
Ultimately I just find myself in a strange position with all of this. On the one hand, I obviously want baseball to come back and come back as quickly as possible. This is both for professional reasons — as you would expect, people aren’t nearly as interested in consuming baseball content when there is no baseball — and personal — I really like baseball! On the other hand, this is a very serious worldwide issue and it feels like MLB might try to rush this thing just to be first and to mitigate their financial losses. I’m not going to pretend I know anything for sure or am any kind of expert here, but I do have to say that this whole plan just seems far-fetched to me. I hope I’m wrong and that there is a way to do this safely, though, because baseball being back by June would be pretty great.