MLB only wishes they’ve struck preemptively against the coronavirus. But in unchartered territory and with no plan in place – what’s next for baseball?
MLB (Major League Baseball) could not be seen as the only major sports league not taking action to protect their players (translation: investments) in the face of the entry to the United States of the coronavirus.
Thus, MLB played follow the leaders by joining the NBA, NHL, and MLS in issuing a statement Monday evening that announced the barring of reporters from clubhouses/locker rooms.
The overall effectiveness of the move is highly questionable, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But more severely comes the recognition that everyone from Walmart to MLB and on up to the Oval Office is caught with their pants down.
MLB: Dancing In The Dark
The fact of the matter is MLB has no protocol for the next step in creating an environment where everyone is safe and protected from the coronavirus.
Fighting a deadly virus is not the same as recognizing the need to develop a plan to meet the challenge of your enemy, who has developed a bomb more prominent than yours.
Or, in the case of MLB, as they observe football and basketball making inroads to expand their sport in Europe and Asia.
Follow the leader baseball says so we need a plan to do that too – London, Mexico, and Puerto Rico appear on the 2020 schedule.
That’s fine. Major league baseball ruled the roost of professional sports for decades and the pendulum was bound to swing the other way sooner or later. But the focus of attention for fans of baseball cannot be what other leagues are doing.
Because by now, most fans of baseball have figured out there’s no way of knowing whether buying tickets for the Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets is worth the risk or not, given the myriad of possibilities the future holds:
- MLB can cancel the entire series.
- MLB can declare the games as “rainouts” meaning refunds are not attainable and tickets to another game, even if it’s next year, the only recourse for a buyer.
- MLB can permit the games to go on as scheduled with the requirement – anyone attending a game does so at their own risk.
- MLB can cancel a portion of the regular season, thereby reducing the number of games each team will play. After which, at the season’s “end,” the playoffs will take place as scheduled.
- Please fill in the blank because I’m out of ideas.
MLB Has To Be In It To Stay In It
The one thing MLB cannot do, however, is to walk away from the problem as was done during the Steroid Era.
In other words, team owners must be taken out of the decision making equation when it comes to the status of games on the 2020 schedule.
Rob Manfred, this one’s on you. Seek support but don’t cave into an over-zealous and rogue owner who insists the show must go on.
MLB’s Ban Of Reporters – A Drop In The Bucket
Now, going back to where we began, is anything genuinely being accomplished by MLB’s ban of reporters in the clubhouse. I have no dog in the race, but I do wonder why this particular group has been singled out by the Commissioner.
Today’s major league clubhouse is overrun by a steady stream of people entering the premises before and after games in addition to reporters:
- Coaches, whose numbers have recently risen to as many as twelve
- The team employed analytics gurus moving from locker to locker spreading their words of wisdom
- Front office personnel who routinely survey the health of injured players relative to how they felt yesterday.
- Clubhouse attendants
- Nutritionists checking on who’s being reasonable and who isn’t
- Chefs and the catering team loading up the day’s meal(s)
- Physical Trainers
- And the two or three the doorman lets slip by as a personal favor to be collected on at a later date
Writing in today’s New York Post, Joel Sherman identified that “since there have been and are so many concentric circles of people who have been in a major league clubhouse in contact with so many more outside the clubhouse,” what’s the point of a one-group ban?
MLB: A Proposal For The Next Steps
- Cancel all MLB games through April 30. This will allow ample time to observe the severity of the coronavirus, administer tests as required, and permit injured players additional time to recover from existing conditions.
- Adopt an expanded playoff schedule to revitalize fan interest. This will require an abbreviated regular-season schedule ending in the middle of September, and in effect, reducing the “regular season” to as few as 130 games.
- Teams crying “foul,” claiming their schedule is now more difficult are told – Hey, it’s the luck of the draw. And shut up.
- Teams are given the option of keeping their camps open. They can schedule “scrimmages” against other teams, or they can (in effect) voluntarily quarantine themselves by limiting game action to intrasquad games.
I’m as interested as you are as to how MLB will respond to these extraordinary times.
Regrettably, the only thing we as fans know for sure at this moment in time, is that the upcoming 2020 season will be anything but “regular.”