While the 2020 Major League Baseball season remains on hold amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the league and its players are considering several potential scenarios for getting the season started. One scenario that is reportedly gaining support would allow the season to begin as early as May but with games only being played in Arizona.
The plan is far from flawless and is not a sure thing to come to fruition. However, public health officials believe it’s a viable plan to begin the season and might be the best chance of getting baseball as soon as possible.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the season would begin with all 30 teams living and playing in the Greater Phoenix area. Chase Field, the Diamondbacks’ home field, and 10 spring training venues in the greater Phoenix area would be used to host games without fans in attendance.
Meanwhile, players, coaches, and essential personnel would be sequestered in their hotels when they’re not playing games. Stadiums would likely host multiple games per day, and seven-inning doubleheaders would be scheduled as a way to squeeze in 162 games despite the late start.
Officials with both the National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention are reportedly on board with this plan. Health officials believe that by May, there will be widespread coronavirus tests available that will have results quickly rather than people waiting days after their test. Once that testing is available, MLB would be able to test players and other team personnel without taking away resources from the general public.
Of course, while MLB and the Players’ Union are discussing this plan and view it as the best option to start the season as soon as possible with the blessing of health officials, there are plenty of details to work out. For instance, players would have to sign off on being separated from their families indefinitely, possibly for months until MLB can resume normal operations.
Meanwhile, money the league usually makes from gate receipts would be lost entirely. However, that could be mitigated to some extent by having more nationally-televised games. There would also be logistical details to hammer out regarding the lodging, transportation, and testing of 30 MLB teams within the greater Phoenix area.
A Different Look
There are several other changes MLB is considering in this scenario. For example, mound visits could be banned altogether, and an electronic strike zone could be used to keep umpires a safe distance from the batter and catcher. It’s also possible that players would sit in the stands six feet apart rather than being crowded together in the dugout as a way to continue social distancing practices.
There are a lot of details to work out, both financially and concerning the health and safety of players, coaches, and other personnel. Some involved in the discussions also believe that starting in May could be ambitious and that starting games in June is more realistic. It’s important to keep in mind that teams would need at least two or three weeks for a second spring training.
While fans shouldn’t get their hopes up yet, they should know that MLB and its players are working on getting back on the field as soon as possible. The Arizona plan isn’t perfect, but it has the best chance of giving fans baseball sooner rather than later while also remaining cognizant of the current public health crisis.
For now, we can only wait, but behind the scenes, progress is being made, and there are reasons to be optimistic that baseball will be played at some point this spring.
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