Last night we looked at how one of the hurdles facing Major League Baseball – whether states would allow the game to be played or not – began to be cleared as California, New York, and Texas have all given the go-ahead, but with restrictions, and it’s expected that many states follow suit in the coming days. The Miami Marlins even opened up their spring training facility to players on Tuesday to use the batting cages and pitching mounds if they wanted to.
We’ve seen NASCAR open up their season, and we’ve seen the UFC holding events in Florida this month already. Other baseball leagues around the world have opened up their regular seasons with games taking place in both Taiwan and South Korea. And in Europe soccer is under way in Germany, and they are trying to get things going in England, but that isn’t going as smoothly as hoped as the Premier League has begun testing and already had six confirmed cases of COVID-19. The results for all teams are not yet in, with more results coming on Saturday.
At ESPN a slew of writers contributed to an incredibly thorough and detailed piece about how Major League Baseball is navigating the pandemic in order to play this summer. They spoke with more than 80 players, managers, trainers, executives, public health officials, infectious disease experts, and government officials about all different aspects of the game and the potential of getting back into stadiums this year.
Here’s an early point of the article:
Baseball’s plan, which calls for “frequent” — but not daily — testing, quarantines only individuals who test positive, increasing the risk of spread and contravening federal guidelines that advise individuals who come in contact with a confirmed infection to quarantine for at least two weeks.
That of course is a bit concerning. The last thing they want is having a team come down with multiple cases and have to cancel games for a team, which would throw off the entire schedule and potentially ruin the year for that specific team who probably couldn’t make up enough games in the span of time that the season would take place.
There were 16 players interviewed for the article, and they all expressed “a strong desire to play this year”, noting that health and safety was their priority. Some players expressed concerns for non-playing staff who are in more vulnerable categories to be “at-risk” for serious complications, or worse.
Nationals ace Max Scherzer, 35, told ESPN he’s most concerned about the vulnerability of coaches and athletic trainers. “They’re constantly working with every single player on the team, and understanding how infectious this disease is, that’s where you worry that you could be putting somebody in harm’s way,” he said.
The piece is quite long, but if you’ve got 15-20 minutes to read it, it’s more than worth your time.
It wasn’t just ESPN that took on a lot of the potential issues that came up when looking at the first plan put forth by Major League Baseball. Michael Baumann also did so on Tuesday over at The Ringer. He asks a pretty important question mid-article:
The proposed MLB protocol splits employees into three tiers: Players, coaches, and on-field staff in Tier 1, with the most rigorous testing protocols; front office personnel in Tier 2; cleaning crews, groundskeepers, and other support staff in Tier 3, with the fewest protections and requirements on testing. Would these workers be less protected because they’re truly at a lower risk? Or merely because they’re seen and paid less?
Those last two sentences kind of hit a very uncomfortable point, though. I won’t speak for everyone else, but I will speak for me: I’d love to hear more from Major League Baseball on the people that make up the tier 3 group and what’s being done for them.
With all of that said, when it comes to the safety aspect of it, it seems both sides are in agreement.
When crafting a safety protocol, the interests of the league and the players are pretty much in line: Both want something that’s practicable enough to bring baseball back relatively quickly, and both want to protect the players and the public from COVID-19. While there might be disagreement on the specifics, the parties are united about the overall goal, which should make it easier to agree to a plan.
There’s a lot of stuff to overcome. So much so that there are more than a few people who’s job it is to figure this stuff out that simply think it’s not feasible to make this plan work without hitting some serious speed bumps along the way. Maybe the money stuff gets in the way before we find out, but if they can get that figured out – it sure seems like they’re going to give it a go and hope for the best.