The 2020 Major League Baseball season merry-go-round has circled the following proposals:
- Playing in Chase Field and spring training venues in Arizona without fans
- Playing in spring training venues in Arizona and Florida as “Cactus” and “Grapefruit” Leagues
- Playing in three states in empty ballparks: Arizona, Florida and Texas
As we stand now nearly at the end of April 2020, all of those appear to be non-starters at this point, for various reasons.
Tuesday, yet another proposal surfaced, reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
Major League Baseball officials have become cautiously optimistic this week that the season will start in late June, and no later than July 2, playing at least 100 regular-season games, according to three executives with knowledge of the talks. They requested anonymity because the plan is still under consideration.
And not only would baseball be played, but it would be played in their own major-league ballparks, albeit with no fans.
MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division – a concept gaining support among owners and executives. It would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign the divisions based on geography.
The usual caveats apply here: medical experts would have to give the green light, widespread testing would have to be available, etc. But now you’re talking about 26 different metropolitan areas in 17 states, the District of Columbia and a Canadian province all opening up for gatherings as large as a couple of baseball teams and a support staff. Estimates of the number of people required to put on a baseball game even without fans range from about 150 to as many as 400.
Even though these proposed 10-team divisions would, per Nightengale’s article, all play only within their own division, there’s still significant travel involved, much of it by air. Sure, teams can bus from Chicago to Milwaukee, Los Angeles to San Diego, New York to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Baltimore and Baltimore to Washington without too much difficulty, but look at some of the distances within the proposed divisions:
It’s over 1,250 miles flying from Boston to Miami. 1,050 air miles separate Seattle and San Diego, and a little over 1,000 separate Seattle and Denver. (This is why the Mariners always have the most flight miles of any team every year. Their closest opponents, the Giants and A’s, are a two-hour flight away.)
This setup would introduce significant air travel for almost all of these teams. Only the “Central” teams among these groups would avoid that, and even then, Atlanta to Minneapolis is over 900 flight miles.
Then stir in this:
MLB teams likely will still return to their own spring-training facilities in Arizona and Florida when they resume workouts. Players are expected to be given a week to return to spring training sites, and have 18 to 21 days before the start of the season.
Well. Now you have to have players find homes or condos to rent for a three- or four-week period, and then find another place to stay in their home city. That’s an awful lot of moving around. Do they bring their families with them? If not, then why not just play under the Arizona Bubble League plan, which would have sequestered players in the Phoenix area and kept them mostly away from the outside world while they play baseball? Granted, I understand why some players wouldn’t want to do that.
Tuesday, I noted that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot hoped the Cubs and White Sox could play in their empty home parks sometime later this summer. My article explained why I think this is a bad idea. I just don’t see things opened up enough, even by midsummer, to allow MLB teams to have even the limited travel schedule explained in the Nightengale article.
At The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal writes that under one idea, a small number of fans might be allowed at games by late this year:
As momentum for the baseball season builds, some club officials even believe that opening parks to a limited number of fans might be possible in August or September in locations where the virus appears under control, an idea that seemed unthinkable only weeks ago and still might be impractical.
One club official acknowledged that fans in such a scenario might need to wear masks and gloves and undergo temperature checks as they entered ballparks — checks that might not be reliable. Parks could open to far less than capacity initially — say, 15,000 fans who are seated far enough apart to fulfill social distancing guidelines — and gradually increase the crowd size over time.
This seems totally impractical. Even if you space out 15,000 fans in a 40,000-seat ballpark, they are going to run into each other in entry and exit areas, in restrooms and at concession stands. Social distancing simply cannot work in a scenario like a live sporting event. I would not want to see this happen and think that large gatherings like live professional sports shouldn’t happen until 2021.
To me, the best ideas to play in 2020 are the Arizona Bubble League and the Cactus/Grapefruit League. The “ABL” has the advantage of no travel. The Cactus/Grapefruit idea creates some new divisions and interest that way. To try to play in 26 different markets all across North America is a non-starter, in my view.
The best idea for playing MLB games in 2020 is...
This poll is closed
The Arizona Bubble League
The Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues
The Arizona/Florida/Texas plan
The three-division, home ballpark plan as described in this article
Forget it, no MLB in 2020, move on to 2021
Something else (leave in comments)