A recent proposal floated to play some sort of MLB 2020 season all in Arizona, at Chase Field and other venues, has both been lauded and criticized since it became public Monday evening. I’m one of those in favor of such a thing, granted that it’s still something of a longshot and a lot of logistical, health and other issues must be settled before any “Arizona Bubble League,” as it’s been dubbed in some places, ever happens.
It should be noted that a plurality of people who voted in the poll attached to my Tuesday article linked above said that the idea of playing such a season was workable. It might, or might not.
At The Athletic, Ken Rosenthal went through a lot of the pros and cons, and yes, there absolutely are cons, and I thought today it would be useful to cite various parts of what Rosenthal wrote and follow with my thoughts on them.
Under a plan supported by some leading members of three federal agencies, major leaguers would not sit bunched up together in a dugout but six feet away from each other in the stands, practicing social distancing. They would exist in a sealed environment, moving only between ballparks and hotels. And, perhaps most intriguing from the government’s perspective, they would serve as a model for how the nation could reignite the economy.
COMMENT: This is the general outline of how things would happen. Can that “sealed environment” be assured? Possibly, but obviously there could be leaks in that, particularly here:
One idea under discussion is whether the players would be completely isolated in Arizona; their wives and children might be permitted to stay with them in hotels, in the way that families are quarantining together across the country, sources said. The plan might also evolve over time to become less restrictive.
The inclusion of families, however, would require the sport to greatly expand the number of people in its protective bubble – and that number, when including those involved in transportation, lodging, security and television production, already would be in the thousands.
The logistics of isolating such a group would be complicated, to say the least. The level of government cooperation required might extend to the State Department, which would need to approve travel for players flying back into the U.S. from places such as Japan and the Dominican Republic. League officials already have been in contact with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the sole major-league team in the state, about the use of Chase Field and related matters.
COMMENT: Well, now we’re getting into potentially serious logistical issues. Regarding families, this was posted Tuesday on Twitter:
If it means my kids will not get to see their dad for months, no. Absolutely 100% no.— Kaycee Sogard (@KayceeSogard) April 7, 2020
Kaycee Sogard’s husband is Brewers infielder Eric Sogard. They have six children, including one adopted last year. I completely understand this position and it might make the proposal untenable. On the other hand, baseball players are away from their families for half the time in a normal six-month season. In this case we are looking at 2020 being a one-off; if players were away from their families for the entire length of whatever season there is, it would hopefully be understood by everyone that this is a one-time occurrence, and as noted by Rosenthal, perhaps over time families could join players in Phoenix.
But then there’s this:
The health considerations, however, would extend beyond players and other club personnel. Hotel workers might be asked to live on-site for a period of time, and wear masks and gloves at all times. The workers, too, would be tested regularly, and avoid direct contact with the baseball contingent.
COMMENT: Now you’re bringing more and more people into this, which would result in more testing being needed. Rosenthal does note that perhaps meals could be delivered to players sealed, with no person-to-person contact. Testing, though, is definitely an issue, and regarding that, Rosenthal says:
By the time baseball would resume, testing should be readily available, some federal officials say. Players would undergo regular testing to ensure they are not infected during an initial quarantine period, then begin an abbreviated spring training and continue with regular testing thereafter. The union and MLB are discussing the expansion of rosters to as many as 50 players to ensure the easy availability of substitutes, giving teams additional flexibility not only if players became ill, but also for what likely would be a compressed schedule.
COMMENT: The first thing on anyone’s mind about this is that baseball players shouldn’t get priority in being tested for COVID-19, and that’s absolutely correct. Rosenthal is assuming that widespread testing would be available for everyone before any baseball resumption, and I agree — professional athletes shouldn’t get priority for testing. Hopefully enough testing becomes available soon to help the general public.
The union would want assurances that baseball and the government would take every possible precaution to prevent players from being in harm’s way. The government officials, however, believe that with the proper measures, the sport can be played as safely as possible. They also believe baseball can play a major role in the country’s restoration, as it did during World War II and after 9-11.
In a nation dealing with so much tragedy and uncertainty, the plan still sounds like a longshot. But for baseball to be played in 2020, there might be no other way.
COMMENT: The role in the country’s restoration cannot be understated. As noted earlier in Rosenthal’s article, starting up baseball, even in empty parks in an unusual situation, might give people hope that “normal” life can resume soon, even if a new “normal” isn’t what we had prior to mid-March, 2020. Sports are an important part of bringing people together in modern society and there is no question in my mind that baseball can provide that as we begin to re-open society, whenever that can happen.
Rosenthal concludes by saying “there might be no other way.” And in fact, the truth is that there might be no way at all. The logistics might be too difficult. Players might balk at being away from their families. There might not be enough suitable venues, or the time zone difference between Arizona and the East Coast might not make TV suitable for a large number of teams. The heat at the Arizona spring parks, where it would likely be well over 100 degrees at 7 p.m. local time, could make it difficult or impossible for players to safely play baseball on a nightly basis. One opinion on the heat:
One Mets player who asked not to be identified has concerns about the idea of 30 teams playing an entire summer in Arizona: "It's the desert," he said. "Stuff doesn't live there, it dies there."— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) April 7, 2020
But I firmly believe Major League Baseball ought to investigate every single angle involved in putting on games in this manner. Maybe they have a much-shortened season starting in July and going through October, maybe getting to “close to” 162 games is impossible and 100-110 might be workable. There are all sorts of concepts regarding this, some great, some not, that ought to be examined before declaring, as some have, that the idea of 30-team Arizona baseball is “ridiculous.”
Maybe this can be a way to have some sort of 2020 baseball “season,” even if it’s not anything like the ones we’ve known before. It’s worth a try. Players, owners and other interested parties should be creative, and absolutely give it a try. Perhaps you have an idea of how some sort of 2020 season could be played. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Regarding Major League Baseball in 2020...
This poll is closed
There should be an effort to play some sort of season, even if shortened, or just a tournament
Forget it. Cancel everything and start again in 2021