Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have focused on a possible return during the month of May in which all games would be played in the Phoenix area, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan. This plan would involve a few weeks of training to allow players to ramp back up into game condition, with an eye on a June opening day. This should be welcome news for baseball fans after some rumblings that owners may be unwilling to play without fans.
NEWS: Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are focusing on a plan backed by federal health officials that could have players in training camps by May and games soon thereafter.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 7, 2020
Details at ESPN on how MLB may return -- and the difficulty in doing so: https://t.co/zDoNa3k4pm
There would be a LOT of obstacles to consider and overcome, but if we are going to get baseball in 2020, this new proposed plan feels like the best chance of having a legitimate season of any kind. In this proposal, the games would be played at Chase Field, the 10 spring training sites in the Phoenix area and perhaps other locations.
The report from Passan is very detailed and worth a read. The fact that there are as many details involved may be an encouraging indicator that the plan is well thought out and has progressed in serious talks. A few highlights:
“For weeks, top federal health officials and baseball officials have discussed the feasibility of the plan, sources said. On Saturday, top officials with the MLBPA spoke with health officials who offered the plan as the clearest way for baseball to restart, according to sources. The league and union began discussing the plan in multiple phone calls Monday, sources said. With the uncertainty of how long the coronavirus pandemic will affect the United States, the isolation option leapt to the forefront of the possibilities the league was considering, sources said.” (...)
“While the possibility of a player or staff member testing positive for coronavirus exists, even in a secured setting, officials do not believe that a positive test alone would necessarily be cause to quarantine an entire team or shut down the season, sources said. The plan could include teams carrying significantly expanded rosters to account for the possibility of players testing positive despite the isolation, as well as to counteract the heat in Phoenix, which could grow problematic during the summer, sources said. The allure of more players potentially receiving major league salaries and service time would appeal strongly to the union, according to sources.”
There have also been discussions to adjusting the games themselves, according to Passan’s report, with everything on the table from seven-inning double headers to electronic strike zones to expanded rosters to players sitting in the stands instead of the normal bench setup. It’s not clear how serious these ideas are being discussed.
It’s also unclear how hundreds of players would react to presumably being separated from their families for months at a time.
The other very real logistical issue here is the summer months in Arizona can often bring temperatures above 105 degrees. Day games would have no chance of being played, and start times locally would have to be 7 p.m. at the very earliest — 10 p.m. Eastern time.
The fact that this type of plan is being discussed, as well as potential radical changes to the games themselves is a very encouraging sign that all parties are trying hard to find a way to play some baseball this season. While there are certainly some issues to be worked out — and it is far from certain this will actually come to fruition — this report should be a welcome sight to baseball fans.