Evan Grant of The Dallas News reported on Thursday night that Major League Baseball is seemingly going to allow teams that play in the state of Texas to have fans in the stadium if games resume. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced on Wednesday that teams in his state would allow up to 50% of stadium capacity at sporting events. They are the first state to allow this. Texas is home to the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers.
What this seems to indicate is that Major League Baseball is going to allow this based on what local and state health officials say is a go or a no-go. This could have more than a few ramifications. The first is that for the Rangers and the Astros, they could have big home field advantages if Texas remains the only state to allow fans. We don’t know where things will be in a month (or longer) in the various locales – so it’s pure speculation here – but the advantage of having 20,000 people in the stands at home while no one is in the stands at other ballparks could be big.
Speaking of those 20,000 people in the stands…. talk about an unfair advantage for teams that can have fans versus those who can’t when it comes to revenues. While some of the ticket revenue is shared among teams, much of the other monies isn’t. Teams that play in states that allow fans could have a real edge moving into the offseason, for example, in how much money they may choose to spend because they were able to actually sell a bunch of tickets, hot dogs, beers, parking spaces, etc.
Of course all of this is still subject to the local health officials – even in Texas where it’s allowed. The Rangers and Astros will need to have plans in place, approved by both Major League Baseball and the local health officials on how they will do a lot of things to keep fans and staff safe.
Social distancing will still be required among fans that aren’t coming together. And that brings up another issue, perhaps. When Major League Baseball presented their health plan to the players, one of the things within it was that illustration that showed how players and coaches must be spaced out for social distancing purposes. And within that illustration there were players in the stands/seats behind the dugout. That, of course, can still happen – the teams will just need to block that area off to fans and have extra security to keep people out. But that may be something that needs to be addressed with the players association, too.