MLB is seriously considering a plan to begin the season in Arizona, sooner than expected. There are just too many problems with this idea.
Late last night, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Major League Baseball and the Players’ Union are working on a plan to begin games in May, playing entirely in Arizona. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I saw tons of fans who were both ecstatic and hopeful that this plan would work.
Look, I miss baseball as much as anyone. I understand that fans want the game back, even if there are restrictions in place. And I have to applaud the league and the players for trying to come up with a plan to safely get games going again soon. Yet I just don’t see how this plan can work.
Here are some of the highlights of the plan as reported by Passan:
- Though a date has not been set, the season could start as soon as May, after a two or three week training period.
- All 30 teams would play in the Phoenix area, at Chase Field and at spring training facilities, with no fans.
- Players, coaches, and other essential personnel would be isolated and would only travel to and from games.
- Testing for COVID-19 would be necessary.
- Other ideas being discussed include an electronic strike zone, no mound visits, seven-inning doubleheaders, use of on-field microphones by players to enhance broadcasts, and players/coaches sitting in the stands, six feet apart, instead of the dugout.
Again, I would really enjoy having baseball back. However, there are just too many problems with this idea to make it feasible, including:
Playing in dangerously hot weather: Is there anyone on either side who thinks this is an issue? Temperatures in Arizona routinely exceed 100 degrees daily during the summer, and though Chase Field has a roof, the spring training stadiums don’t. Playing one game under these conditions would be bad for the players’ health; asking them to play a doubleheader like this seems unfathomable.
Players would be away from their families for a long time: Nobody knows how long this situation would last, but if it were to last for the rest of the season, players would have to be away from their families for a good four to five months. As much as players love playing baseball, it’s hard to believe this would make it an enjoyable experience. Fans, in turn, would suffer if the players’ hearts aren’t fully into the game.
It wouldn’t be the same game: In principle, I’d rather watch baseball on TV with no fans in the stands than not have any baseball at all. Still, it wouldn’t be quite the same. Yet that’s not my biggest concern. Baseball is not the same without mound visits or if it’s not played a full nine innings. And though an electronic strike zone is probably coming someday, again it’s not the same without human umpires. If these measures are necessary to get all the games in, it almost doesn’t seem worth it to me.
Will it really be safe by then? I understand that the league wants to be prepared, and that requires advanced planning. But right now, with news developing daily, we just don’t know whether it will be safe. Keeping players six feet apart when not on the field already seems unrealistic enough; players have to be within six feet of each other while on the playing field. And with all the testing, what if someone tests positive? We’ll have to shut down all over again.
This whole plan just screams of desperation. Again, applaud them for trying. Yet I’d almost rather have no baseball at all than this. Let’s wait until everything is safe and that we can play the game the right way, even if that takes longer.