While MLB’s Florida/Arizona plan continues to gain traction, there is an abundance of hurdles that must be overcome before we’ll hear “Play Ball”.
While Major League Baseball (MLB) continues to move forward with a plan designed to give fans their baseball and some semblance of a 2020 season, some issues still need to be resolved. Here are a few for you to consider:
COVID-19 Does Not Recognize State Boundaries
The decision to base the 2020 season in Florida and Arizona primarily stems from all MLB thirty teams having Spring Training facilities in either state.
The best part, though is that geography within each state makes it possible to establish three divisions in each league that limits team travel and to have the potential to hit the season right out of the ballpark.
The trouble is that COVID-19 does not resonate with geography. To illustrate, take a peek at this map of the United States.
Ironically, states in the Northeast and Midwest have seen the worse of the pandemic. Both Florida and Arizona have yet to witness the peak of the virus.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Rob Manfred told Fox Business Network, “We have engaged in contingency planning. We’ve thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios. But the key is the improvement in the public health situation.”
The last sentence says it all. Above all else, MLB, the players, and everyone associated with professional baseball do not want to be in a situation where they have blood on their hands due to a premature resumption of the season.
Reports stemming from Arizona indicate the so-called peak will arrive in late-April or May. The U.S. Center For Disease Control (CDC) concurs.
Similarly, Florida has shifted its peak projection out to May (it was March) with new estimates of 4,700 deaths by August.
MLB: The Peak Is Only Half The Problem
Ironically, we see states like New York and California, both of whom have downward trending stats, actually getting more stringent as they ease back to normalcy.
Both states are now requiring masks to be worn by everyone when out in public.
Restrictions on the number of people permitted inside a restaurant and the use of disposable menus serve only to recognize CDC’s warning that without continuing safe-distancing practices, this whole thing can blow up again.
For MLB, the pressure will remain on even as “the numbers” tempt to go the other way.
MLB Players In The Crosshairs
We can read all those sweet stories about how MLB players are happy to be home, playing with the kids, teaching Math to their fourth-grader, and sitting down for a family meal.
But most have baseball running through their blood, and they are biting at the bit to feel the adrenalin again when the gate opens, and they are free to run.
But like the Roman gladiators eager to get into the fight to prove their value, MLB, let’s remember, owes everything to the players.
Without them, there is no major league baseball.
And so, it is incumbent on MLB, whether selfishly from a “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” motive or the ideal do the right thing approach, the players are the ones in the crosshairs, quarantined or not.
How, just as one example, is a first baseman supposed to hold a runner on without standing less than six feet away? I suppose MLB could adopt the Little League rule that says a runner stays on the base until the pitch is delivered?
Or, how about the player who strolls into the clubhouse for a 7:00 pm game that’s following a just-concluded afternoon contest.
Is he to assume his locker and all bathroom facilities have been thoroughly cleaned, and it’s safe to hang his underwear on a rung previously used?
And to take it to the limit, will a player be permitted to hold and kiss his newborn son or daughter?
MLB Has The Right Idea, But There’s Work To Do
No one ever imagined this would be easy. And I still say MLB is trying to put a square peg in a round hole. But if the result is major league baseball available across America, what the hell – go for it. Like many fans, I’ll be there.
The trick, of course, is finding the balance. Timing is everything.
As a fan of MLB for more than a half-century, nothing will please me more than to hear the call – even if it’s in an empty ballpark with players sitting three seats apart in the stands – “Play Ball”.
At the same time, I’m willing to wait until the “All Clear” is given – not by Donald Trump – but by the scientists, doctors, and the CDC.