There have been rumblings over the past couple of weeks about Major League Baseball resuming games at some point this season. There are more rumblings today. Evidently MLB expects to offer a return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players Association within a week.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that a number of hurdles have to be cleared in order for baseball to return. Optimistically MLB is targeting around June 10 to begin Spring Training. If that works out, the hope would be to start competitive baseball on July 1. Passan noted that General Managers and Managers of at least a dozen teams reached out to players asking that they ramp up baseball activities.
Went on @GetUpESPN this morning to talk about the latest on how baseball could proceed as it tries to return and why playing in home stadiums has become the preferred option of many in the game.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 7, 2020
For more details, check out the news story at ESPN dot com: https://t.co/fHiasxlS1A pic.twitter.com/v6hT4WjudT
Concerns from players do exist since they are being asked to play baseball together while also being in what has to be assumed as close proximity inside clubhouses and locker rooms during a COVID-19 pandemic. It seems there are players who want answers to questions like, “What happens if I choose not to play in 2020 due to health related fears or a desire to stay with the family through this pandemic?”
These fears are not unfounded. There are a number of players with underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk of a poor outcome if they become infected. Carlos Carrasco comes to the top of mind here, but he certainly is not the only one. There are players with family members with underlying health conditions as well. For example, Sean Doolittle referenced his wife’s acute asthma as a significant concern in an interview with Jayson Stark. Obviously this not only pertains to the players, but to coaches, trainers, and other team personnel who likely have the same concerns.
The economics are a concern here as well. No baseball means no revenue coming in. Even if baseball returns, games will be played, at least at first, in front of empty stadiums. Revenue will funnel in via television, but there is an obvious shortfall without ticket, concessions, and team merchandise sales. With that in mind, owners might pursue further salary reductions from players. It would be hard to believe that the MLBPA would allow that to happen without some level of push back. This in itself will be a likely obstacle to overcome before a real plan for games to resume occurs.
What baseball will look like in 2020 is an open question that has to be dealt with too. There have been a number of proposals bandied about, and we still have limited knowledge of what baseball would look like once play resumed. Passan suggested that active rosters could carry as many as 30 players with a pool of 50 available to them. It has also been suggested that teams could play games in their home stadiums. There has also been reference to three divisions of 10 teams. In such a scenario, the Milwaukee Brewers would be in the Central division with teams like the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, and St. Louis Cardinals. Whatever the case, talks between MLB and MLBPA would have to take place prior to a workable plan being issued.
MLB discussing plan to start season with three 10-team divisions, and expanded postseason, with hopes of playing in own home stadiums this summer. https://t.co/aHeNftRZhj— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) April 28, 2020
As Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors points out, the unaddressed elephant in the room is what to do if a player, coach, trainer, or other team personnel tests positive for COVID-19 much less if multiple people test positive.
Obviously a lot has to happen still for MLB baseball to return in 2020. Even if baseball returns, Coronavirus could change everything once again. While optimism is beneficial and planning is necessary, what is being reported now is likely to look different when and if baseball comes back this season.