Putting all 30 teams in the Phoenix area this season and playing in empty ballparks was among the ideas discussed Monday by Major League Baseball and the players’ association.
Half of the MLB clubs hold spring training in Arizona, the other half in Florida.
Arizona’s advantage is 10 spring training ballparks plus the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field all within about 50 miles. Florida’s spring training ballparks are spread out
by as much as 220 miles.
“It allows for immediacy of a schedule, where you might be able to begin it and televise it, provide Major League Baseball to America,” said Scott Boras, baseball’s most prominent agent. “I think players are willing to do what’s necessary because I think they understand the importance of baseball for their own livelihoods and for the interest of our country and providing a necessary product that gives all the people that are isolated enjoyment.”
“You’re going to be largely separated from your families and you’re going to have to function in a very contained way. It’s not a normal life, this idea,” Boras said. “You’re going to have an identified group of people. You’re going to have a constantly tested group of people. And you’re going to have a very limited access of those people to the outside world so that you can assure a very uncontaminated league, if you will, to produce a product that is inspirational to our country.”
Chase Field, with artificial turf and a retractable roof, could be the site of daily tripleheaders, Boras said.
Both sides have agreed to attempt to play as full a season as is possible, and this plan would enable the season to start while waiting for health and government officials to determine whether it is safe to resume play in regular-season ballparks, with the travel that would entail.Unlike popular sports like football and basketball, baseball is a sport that can be played while maintaining a considerable amount of social distancing. Further, additional steps can be taken by the MLB to ensure player protection. While I have seen numerous articles on the 2020 MLB season being played in Arizona, without fans, I have yet to see discussion of additional steps that should also be taken to ensure the safety of player safety. Some ideas I came up with off the top of my head are:
1) Only players in the game are allowed in the dugout and they are to be six feet apart. The rest of the players are to be in the clubhouse or bullpen, six feet apart.
2) Batters wear cloth masks while as well as the catcher and umpire.
3) No fans are allowed in the ball park, with the exception, perhaps, of members of the players family. They must remain six feet apart in the stands though.
4) Members of the media are to stay six feet away from players and each others.
5) Players must travel to games individually by private automobile. (The teams won't need to fly to games if they are all playing in Arizona. And using a bus to transport players needs to be avoided for obvious reasons.)
6) Roster expanded from 26 to 30 because of fewer days off and possible doubleheaders.
7) A staff member of each team be required to constantly be sanitizing surfaces before and during games.Of course, it is inevitable that some players will come down with Covid-19 just because you can't control what they do off the field. But, with the Arizona plan and taking proper precautions, there is no reason that the possibility of Covid-19 being spread among MLB players cannot be almost completely eliminated.
We have now been about a month without sports with no end in sight. The 98% of Americans who are now living under stay-home orders are a captive audience for the 2020 MLB season. MLB could turn the situation into a PR bonanza by offering to provide its product for free to Americans who cannot leave their homes. (MLB would still make a ton off advertising revenue.) More importantly, it would provide MLB, sans competition, a welcome opportunity to regain some of the popularity the baseball used to have when it was dubbed America's "national pastime."
This idea can work. Make it happen, Major League Baseball.
For an alternative view.