Just the other day, I wrote a hypothetical about how baseball could return in an little as three weeks. Some found it feasible, while others scoffed, claiming it was impossible. Well, as of this morning there is news that the MLB is planning its return.
The MLB was forced to stop preseason action on March 12th due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Within a week, players were told to return to their season homes or regular homes, as baseball was officially canceled. As the number of coronavirus cases in the US topped 150,000 in just a handful of days, few believed baseball would be played in 2020.
Through pure sacrifice, social distancing is now starting to pay off. The curve is finally flattening. NY City and other major cities finally appear to be reaching their apexes. Having monitored these stats daily, and while the news is still horrific, the spread of the virus seems to be slowing way down. The MLB also watches these stats closely and they have taken note.
Since the pandemic began, the MLB, the team owners and the MLBPA have vowed to recover as much of the season as possible. Several, including agent Scott Boras, have worked on contingency plans. Play means pay for everyone involved, and the season can’t start fast enough.
So, what’s the plan?
In my article, I suggested monitored quarantines for players, managers, coaches and staff. Once everybody was given a green light, the preseason and regular season could resume, but with some twists.
Moving all 30 teams to Arizona was also suggested for several different reasons. First and foremost, Arizona has experienced a relatively low infection rate (2,456), with only 35 deaths and they’ve not had any new cases or deaths reported. Finally, the spring training stadiums (10 total) could be used to host games in a neutral environment. This wasn’t considered in the initial article, but there are other stadiums available in the Sun Devil State. Arizona State University’s Packard Stadium and Chase Field, belonging to the Arizona Diamondbacks, could also both be used.
It’s now being reported that the MLB is planning something very similar. They’re still working on the logistics as the virus continues to slow down, and are not giving a start date yet. They do, however, say that they plan on moving teams to Arizona and will be playing in empty stadiums. How long this may last is anybody’s guess, but it’s absolutely a step in the right direction.
Is it a best-case scenario? Certainly not. There’ll be a ton of lost revenue, as major cities with teams won’t benefit from large crowds. Season ticket holders (other than D-Backs season ticket holders) would likely be displaced and due millions in refunds. Above and beyond all, empty stadiums and neutral parks will just seem weird. BUT- it will mean baseball.
If the current contingency plan is adopted, things will look a little different. The MLB is saying that all games will be doubleheaders and will only go seven innings.
Statement From The MLB
“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so. While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan. While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association. The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”
When will MLB return?
MLB hasn’t announced anything firm, but says it’s continuing to plan it’s return for sometime in May or June. Obviously, that period covers 61 days, so the smart bet would be sometime between May 15th and June 15th. Prior to the COVID–19 situation worsening, the target start date was for Memorial day weekend.
I recently spoke with Anthony Bass of the Toronto Blue Jays. He told me that players (especially pitchers) will need about three to four weeks to prepare. With that in mind, a best case scenario would mean games could likely start sometime in mid to late June.
The situation remains fluid. There’s currently been no discussion about what the season may look like, or how many games will be played. A June 1st start would mean that two full months worth of games (approximately 55 per team) will have been lost. Without playing a myriad of doubleheaders, that would have somewhere between 100 and 107 games left. Obviously schedules would need to be adjusted, which I’m certain they’re toying with daily.
For now, forget about the semantics and technicalities. Instead, embrace the idea that MLB will be returning in 2020.
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