Detroit – So, the plan would be to essentially create a virus-proof biodome in the desert that would quarantine all 30 Major League Baseball teams, each with 50-man rosters (as has been discussed to counter the grueling schedule), front-office personnel, training and medical staffs, chefs and others essential to the operation – like umpires, clubhouse attendants, television crews and media – in the Phoenix area.
And that’s on top of everything else that’s already in place there to facilitate daily life – hotel and restaurant workers, food suppliers and distributors, grocers, on and on.
Would the plan involve players’ families, or would they have to live apart during a global pandemic? That’s a big ask, wouldn’t you think?
The plan, which according to reports in The Athletic, has the support of members in three federal agencies, would ask players to sit six feet apart in the dugout, using the empty stands if they need. High-fives and handshakes are right out. It would limit players’ freedom to ballparks and hotels.
There’s been no mention of limiting close plays on the bases where a fielder might actually have to tag a runner. Will players be required to wear gloves and masks at all times?
Come on, what are what we talking about here?
Has anybody checked on the natural environmental factors? This just in – it’s freakin’ hot in the desert in May and June. There’s going to be doubleheaders, eight games a week, 20-plus games in a row outdoors (except for the games played in the domed Chase Field in Phoenix) in 100-plus-degree heat?
Is that healthy? Even with 50-man rosters?
Before I rant on here, know that this plan isn’t close to being implemented. There were preliminary discussions on Monday between Major League Baseball and the players’ association. Yesterday, MLB released this statement:
“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so. While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan. While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association.
“The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”
Love that commissioner Rob Manfred and his people are thinking outside the box, trying to find a way to salvage a baseball season. That’s what we all want – some diversion, something to feel good about, something to remind of us of normalcy.
But this, moving the entire league and playing the season in the desert, isn’t it. There are just too many potholes, obvious ones, seemingly. All that humanity crowded into a relatively small area – all it would take is one person to get or pass the virus to turn the makeshift biodome into a disaster area.
That risk seems greater when you consider that players will be flying into Arizona not just from the United States, but from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico – all over.
It’s surprising that the plan has gotten initial support from Department of Health and Human Service, National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control officials. Yes, the plan would include daily testing for everyone, but you wonder how much that might impact national and international testing efforts.
The last thing baseball would want is even the perception that they were draining national resources in order to play a makeshift season.
Listen, I make my living chronicling the Tigers and Major League Baseball. Selfishly, I want a season sooner than later. If they figure out a safe way to play 15 games a day for three months in the greater Phoenix area, I’m in. Just give me a hotel room, a rental car and the schedule.
But I can’t envision a safe way to do that. Not now.
Something else is gnawing at me, too. I hope economics aren’t driving any of this. Baseball revenues were just under $11 billion last year and vast sums are being lost every day the industry is shut down.
Certainly it behooves the league and the players to figure out ways to mitigate the lost revenue. But not at the expense of the nation’s health. Let’s not let economic pressures force us into any hasty and possibly dangerous solutions.
The priorities are clear – health and safety first, everything else after.