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.

Big league pitcher Brett Anderson already jumped the gun to give his opinion before the players association asked for it.

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.

26 Responses

  1. RedsDownUnderer

    The Australian soccer league was one of the last sports leagues operating. They tried something like this, with the New Zealand team relocating to a quarantine in Sydney to make it happen–the players on that team were given the option to stay behind with their families and all of them went. To be clear, this is a league fighting for its financial life (at this point most of the teams have stopped paying players). It seemed like it could have worked, and then Australia and NZ imposed stricter measures… and then a few players tested positive…

    It just doesn’t seem feasible or even ethical, as much as I want baseball back

  2. Scott C

    Tough choice for the players. I hope that MLB doesn’t force them to make a choice. Sounds like greed is overriding common sense.

    • Patrick Jeter

      You can explore options without being greedy. And common sense was gone long ago in this situation. Almost nothing that is happening is driven by common sense; only fear.

      • Scott C

        Yes you can explore options. I’m just not sure this is a wise one.

  3. SultanofSwaff

    In 8 weeks the curve will be flattened. In 8 weeks, or 20 weeks, or more, the virus will still be something we have to take precautions with in our daily lives. Until we have a vaccine, all we can do is isolate the sick and vulnerable and test like crazy. Isolating the healthy indefinitely doesn’t seem rational to me. I mean, by June (heck, by May) people will be eating in restaurants and going to bars, so the notion of athletes gathering won’t be unique. I think this could work even without sequestering the players in a hotel, but what I need to hear more about is what the plan is if a player (or more) on the active roster tests positive. Will they quarantine for two weeks and basically call it an IL stint? It may test the outer limits of a 40 man roster and in turn warp the regular season records, but I think those competition challenges take a back seat to simply playing the game again.

    • BTB2012

      You have put my thoughts into words perfectly. Agree with all of this.

    • Colorado Red

      The Curve is already fattening.
      Will be dropping in a few weeks.
      May be to early to start talking PRO sports, but in AZ for a month or so, and if all goes well around the country in JulY?

    • Nick in NKY

      I third this. While I won’t treat ballplayers like well paid slaves, they as well as everyone else wants to get back to normal. We are, in my humble estimation, entering a period of decision-making where we try to balance the unknown and uncertain extent of the pandemic with the known and very real economic damage that we are doing. The pandemic is dangerous to public health. So are lives and livelihoods being forcibly crushed. Baseball is a drop in the bucket in the big picture, but I am guessing as it gets warmer and people get more anxious from being pent up that the calls to resume normalcy will get louder. We shall see.

  4. RedNat

    why on earth, if you were a gazillionaire ball player like Joey Votto would you risk your life getting back on the field?

    I think baseball will return on a volunteer basis. the guys that need a paycheck will sign up. the millionaire veterans , I think will opt out.

  5. Doug Gray

    The difference is the NFL player’s ACL injury won’t kill his grandma or his wife or possibly the security guard who has to be around him on a daily basis. The NFL player getting this virus, though – yeah, it could actually do those things to those people.

  6. Bdh

    Yes get baseball going again! It’s isn’t like football or basketball where the players are in each other’s faces. Just Play without fans

    • Michael Smith

      30 ppl in a dugout is close quarters.

  7. Big Ed

    I think that by the first couple weeks of May, there will be a lot more clarity on where things stand.

    The worst “hump” will have passed; the medical community will have a much better grip on how to treat this; there will be vastly more testing done and available, including many rounds of randomized testing that will much better define the elusive “denominator”; the irregularities in distributing PPE will have resolved; transmission will be much better understood; herd immunity will start to take effect; etc. The best minds in the world are working on this problem, and there is going to be a lot of progress over the next 6 weeks.

    Somebody has to lead the way out, or else the country will stray into 35% unemployment for untold months. Doing a controlled experiment in Arizona beginning in June is something to look at. The country needs baseball as a symbol of hope.

    • I-71_Exile

      Agree completely, Big Ed. Thanks.

  8. Darren

    Some may recall President FDR encouraged baseball be played during WW2, feeling the country needed something other than bad news to rally around. I almost feel like the same applies today. Mental Health is a real concern the longer this Virus holds onto our minds.

  9. Don Meihaus

    Doug’s point above, while well meaning, is not really a good one. Sure, if the players take 0 precautions they could end up catching the virus and passing it to grandma. But there is a path to playing (today, much less in a month) and not doing that.

    I go to work every day (for which I am very thankful). The obvious tradeoff is that I have not seen my grandparents since early March. I still talk to them as much as I want… but we don’t meet in person. Same goes for me seeing my parents. The risk of me catching any virus and passing it on to my elderly relatives is, therefore, absolutely 0.

    There could be a handful of players that value seeing their family more than their jobs and choose not to play. That is certainly respectable. But this can work for everyone else with some common sense and discipline.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s not just the players, though. It’s the players, the coaches, the manager, the staff, the stadium workers, the hotel workers, the bus driver, the media at the game (radio and TV crew, even if they don’t allow writers to attend) – there’s probably 75 people that *have to be there* every day that aren’t players. And really, all it takes is one person – even accidentally – causing this to spread to a large group of these people before any single one of them shows signs of anything being wrong.

  10. Doug Gray

    Oh I expect plenty of players to be on both sides of the vote, if it comes to that. We won’t need leaks – we’ve already got some of receipts on who wants what (at least as of right now).

    • Don

      All fair points, Doug. Leaving the sport aspect of it out, I think all those people, players, staff, etc. really need to ask themselves 3 questions: can I be discipline enough to do the job while undertaking all the necessary precautions; can I handle self isolating from my at risk loved ones for the duration of the job and then some; and is it worth the increased risk of my own health.

      All of them will have to answer the questions from the own perspectives, family concerns, and financial standing. No real way to know, but I think many would say yes; what do you all think?

  11. TR

    Until a tested and proven Coronavirus vaccine is available for the public, I don’t see MLB baseball being played. Perhaps a full or somewhat shortened season in 2021.

    • RedNat

      I tend to agree. The problem is this virus is so small it is really going to be hard to come up with a vaccine. There has been no vaccine for MERS or SARs which are also coronavirus. The poliovirus was the same size but it took decades to develop. I hope i am wrong but if we go by your thinking. ( which is probably the idea choice) , may be a long, long time before we see the reds again. This is so sad to think about.

      • TR

        It is tough to be without baseball which has such a long, storied history, and fans take their team loyalties very seriously. I know us Reds fans do. I have no idea when, but I think a coronavirus vaccine will be forthcoming sooner than we think. Pulling together and each doing our part, America has in the past and will rise to this occasion.

  12. Don

    I agree 100%… well 98%. The last statement I’ll offer a differing opinion. Simply put, the pro athletes can drink more water and use sunscreen. I’ve worked in the south west. All the typical outdoor jobs are still done outdoors. Hydrate well, take a week or two to ease in/acclimate, and you’d be surprised how fast you get used to it. And of course it is a ‘dry heat’ haha.

    • BigRedSaguaro

      If it’s in Arizona in July, you also have to factor in the monsoon season along with the heat.

  13. Colorado Red

    Also,
    The Flu has killed about 65K in the USA this year.
    You can die of a heart attack, the Flu, an Auto accident.
    Be careful, but do not be scared to death.