Spring, and all of its temperamental, ever-changing weather patterns, is officially here. The baseball season that should be well underway has yet to begin, however, and there remains no official timetable for a potential return. There is, however, traction regarding actual baseball, and those murmurings have become more than just hearsay.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that Major League Baseball has done its due diligence with regard to starting the regular season in May. While on its face this sounds premature, the developing logic introduced by the league is reality, not rumor.
That is to say the recent rumblings with regard to a May Opening Day should not be dismissed. Per Passan, beginning games as early as next month, all within proximity to Phoenix, AZ, appears both viable and is under serious consideration.
Before we dive deeper into the feasibility, let’s focus on the obstacles and rules that would be in place:
- All 30 teams would play in the Phoenix area, and would be played without fans in attendance.
- Players, team personnel, and other essential staff would be sequestered at nearby hotels, traveling only to and from their residence for gamedays.
- An electronic strike zone would be considered to further encourage social distancing.
- Questions remain about players being able to stay with their families while in Arizona.
- Player support for the nascent proposal isn’t unanimous, and the player’s union has yet to endorse the plan.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health have reportedly expressed tepid support for the proposal, with strict isolation guidelines in place.
Major League Baseball released the following statement, and while they don’t throw water on their own proposal they do caution it’s merely in the fledgling stages:
While everyone that loves baseball is no doubt intrigued by this development, let’s move forward with extreme caution. It’s true that support from both the CDC and NIH would signal safety measures were appropriately in place, yet the urgency for baseball to return should not take precedence over the safety and health of the players, essential personnel, and the effects of how such gatherings of people might impact the public at-large.
To wit, some have reacted with incredulity, both because of the enormous public health risks such a proposal poses as well as the issue that might keep the owners and players at an impasse: money. Both of these concerns are noteworthy, particularly that of public health.
In short, the news that MLB is unafraid to explore every avenue to return to the field is encouraging. Creativity and ingenuity are required, both to satiate the hunger of fans as well as to (ahem) line the pockets of the owners and (more importantly) ensure that players are appropriately compensated.
As the league continues to perform due diligence with regard to Opening Day, it must do so under one fundamental principle: the health and safety of society shall be protected at all costs.
We all want the return of baseball. To do so before we have COVID-19 fully contained would be a grave error.