Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association is reportedly talking about a plan that could allow them to start a season before the end of May according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. The talks are still early, and so many different things need to be figured out still – but it seems that some of the plan is at least there.
According to report at ESPN, the teams would all come together in the Phoenix area and would use Chase Field, as well as all of the spring training sites as well as the possibility of “other fields” in the area – presumably college level stadiums to play games. The players would essentially be quarantined at local hotels and would only travel away from the hotel to go to the field in which they were playing that day. The plan has reportedly gotten support from the CDC and NIH.
This part, however, is very key in the plan moving forward:
The May return date depends on a number of concerns being allayed, and some officials believe a June opening day could be more realistic, sources said. Most important would be a significant increase in available coronavirus tests with a quick turnaround time, which sources familiar with the plan believe will happen by early May and allow MLB’s testing not to diminish access for the general public.
There is going to need to be testing. And a lot of it. And that testing is going to need to provide quick results, too – not a test that requires days to get results back. Those tests exists now – but not in high volume. As I type this, there are many states where testing still is not easily available and is only being used on those who need to be hospitalized with symptoms, medical workers with symptoms, or those at a high risk with symptoms.
There are many other hurdles and obstacles that would need to be considered, too. Would the players be willing to commit to an unknown amount of time living in Phoenix with a chance that they could go months without seeing their families so they could play baseball and get a paycheck (granted a nice one)?
What’s the situation with regards to everyone working at the hotel that the team personnel stays at? Are they also going to offer to be quarantined for a big paycheck? How about the bus driver? The ballpark staff? What about the media? There are just so many people beyond just the players that are involved here that could also be put at risk, as well as put the players at risk of catching and or spreading the virus.
Testing would be a huge deal here, and it feels like so much of the plan begins right there. Without ample testing, that also is both accurate and quick to provide results, this is a non-starter. Testing is the first step of the plan.
But even after that, the logistics get real tough. The players have the right to vote no on a plan. And that’s a big problem, too. While players are certainly in the union and agree to go with what the overall vote is – there’s a real chance that some guys who vote no would just say “this isn’t worth it” and not show up even if the overall vote says “let’s do this”.
As Joe Sheehan said late on Monday night, these guys aren’t monkeys paid to dance.
These guys aren’t monkeys paid to dance. They have pregnant wives and sick kids and parents trying to stay alive in a pandemic.
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) April 7, 2020
Big league pitcher Brett Anderson already jumped the gun to give his opinion before the players association asked for it.
— Brett Anderson (@_BAnderson30_) April 7, 2020
He’s just one player, but you have to imagine he’s nowhere near alone in his thinking. Of course, I say this while the Korean Baseball Organization is having their version of spring training right now in empty ballparks. South Korea, though, has been able to control the spread of the virus far better than the United States has. Japan was going with a similar plan, but had three players test positive on one team and after a few days of saying they were moving forward with their expected start of the season, reversed that decision and put the season on hold indefinitely.
Baseball isn’t the only sport with a plan to quarantine their athletes in a specific area with the hopes of moving forward “as usual” but without fans. Dana White, the president of the UFC, claims he has an island at an undisclosed location where he plans to hold fights “every week”. The first event is scheduled for April 18th. It was originally set to be in Brooklyn, but was scrapped due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 situation. Several high profile fighters pulled out of the event altogether, while others have committed to flying to a secret island to put on the pay per view.
The Premier League has also reportedly discussed talks of beginning their season up again as early as June according to the Mirror. Much like the plan being talked about with baseball, the players would essentially be quarantined away from the public, no fans would be allowed at the matches, and there’s be strict guidelines in place about interacting.
As Samuel L. Jackson says as Arnold in Jurassic Park: Hold onto your butts.
Update: 10:30am on 4/7/2020
Major League Baseball has released this statement:
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.