No one can possibly predict how exactly or even if this season will be played. As you’ve probably heard by now there have been numerous rumblings and discussions about possibly starting the season in Arizona and even Florida spring training facilities. The games would take place with no fans, and players would basically be quarantined in hotel rooms between games. There’s no exact word if their families would be able to visit either.
It's also been suggested that players sit in the stands during games to keep proper distancing, with coaches and athletic staff also having to take proper preventive measures. Double header's would be a must at least once a week, as well as possibly shortened games, especially with regards to extra innings. No mound visits would be permitted, there would most likely be a DH for all teams, games could result in ties, and expanded rosters are almost sure to be employed. Whew! That is a lot to take in and that’s just scratching the surface!
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Where to begin? There are almost too many questions to even discuss when trying to make sense of this scenario. The biggest one is what happens if a player tests positive for the virus? Will that be it? Will they shut everything down after that? Will the team have to go into quarantine and stop playing games? Another obviously one is what happens when players are on base?! Are they going to wear masks? There definitely won’t be any more spitting allowed, either. Who will be the first to forget that rule? And what about umpires? There has been talk of using robot umps that utilize the TrackMan system. Which is basically umpires away from the field, watching a black box which relays Doppler radar images of the strike zone. When used in the Atlantic League, calls were sent down to umps on the field, who then announced the call. It’s been reported that it actually worked quite well, however, it negates the whole the whole point of not having umpires on the field! Maybe it’ll just show the call on the scoreboard? How strange would that be?! Of course the umpires could try to keep their distance, which could work for balls and strikes through the TrackMan system, but what about plays at the plate, not to mention plays in the field and on base?
What a mess. Another important question, this one from a moral standpoint, is how would it impact the near-by hospitals and general public by taking medical supplies, personnel, and testing kits away from where they’re needed most? Players and staff would have to be constantly tested and the question of whether it’s worth it would have to be heavily scrutinized.
It's highly unlikely that everyone involved is going to be on board with all this and who knows if players will be allowed to sit out, if they choose. And what about the minor leagues? Will those games go on? There’s of course, the issue of salaries as well. Who gets paid fully or partially? Whether it be the staff, team personnel, or even the players if it’s a only half a season or so with no fans in attendance. I'm sure those negotiations/arguments are going on at this very moment. Right now parameters are in place to pay non-players salaries until the end of May for most teams, but what about after that? It effects everyone all the way down the line.
Ideally all the details would be hashed out or at least most of them ahead of time. It's currently being reported that owners are not on board with paying players prorated salaries if there is no fans in attendance and the players union is not having it. Unfortunately, for things to progress, they will have to come to an agreement before any of the other complicated logistics can be figured out. Once they are finally given the green light by the health care community and governing agencies, Major League Baseball will need to be ready to go and not waste anymore precious time. The problem is since there is still so much unknown, it will be very difficult to iron out all the logistics causing even more headaches and delays.
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So many questions that need answering, and after reading the tone of this article you would think I was totally against what MLB and the players association have been discussing regarding a return to baseball and a shortened 2020 season. Even with all this and as ridiculous as the whole thing sounds, maybe some form of baseball is better than no baseball at all. Also, as many have pointed out, hopefully these restrictions (or at least some of them) would only be for part of the season, with the latter half moving back into the regular stadiums, still with no fans.
At this point that seems doubtful, but one can hope. Right now we're looking at conceivably a near end of June or possibly early July start date, perhaps even earlier if cooler heads prevail and this terrible outbreak slows down in the coming weeks. Dr. Fauci says it’s feasible to play this way and as many Americans sit at home waiting this thing out, a return of live baseball on television would be a welcome and soothing distraction.