Major League Baseball was the talk of the sports world Tuesday after reports of a potential quarantined season staged entirely in Arizona surfaced.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported that league and players’ union were focused on a plan that would see all 30 teams gather in Arizona to play out the 2020 season in empty stadiums. If the league and players come to an agreement, it could allow baseball to return as early as May.
Of course, there are many hurdles that will have to be cleared before that can become a reality. However, ESPN’s report suggests one of the biggest has already been cleared. Sources tell Passan that several high-ranking federal public health officials support the plan and believe the league could safely pull it off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now the eyes and ears of baseball fans are turning to the players to gauge their reaction to what would be a season unlike any other in sports history.
Not surprisingly, many players are holding their opinions back until they’ve learned more details. Those that have commented publicly seem to have mixed feelings.
Nolan Arenado wants to get back out and play
Those were the words of Nolan Arenado upon learning the plan.
It’s not a full-blown endorsement. But the Colorado Rockies All-Star third baseman briefly explained why he’s optimistic the idea could work to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
"I believe these ideas wouldn't be thrown around if it wasn't approved or can't be approved,” Arenado says. “I want to get back out there and play."
Exactly how safe it can or will be is tough to firmly grasp at this point in the process. ESPN’s report indicates a significant increase in coronavirus tests that give quick and accurate results could happen by early May. If that happens, it could help to win over more players.
Adam Ottavino: "I’ve seen it (the Arizona idea). I don’t have any good insight but I would be in the camp of supporting the idea. I’m sure a lot would have to go right for it to actually happen but I’m hoping it can work because I want to play.” #Yankees— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) April 7, 2020
Indeed. A lot would have to go right.
As USA Today’s Bob Nightengale points out, it also doesn’t rest entirely on the players.
At least two owners anonymously told Nightengale they would push for players to take up to a 40 percent pay cut to play a season with no fans. That would be a difficult sell to players who would already be sacrificing several months away from their families and expected to play in very hot conditions during the Arizona summer.
Brett Anderson not a fan of this one negative
The family issue is one that sticks out to Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Brett Anderson.
The section highlighted by Anderson reads:
The logistics to pull off such a plan would be enormous and cumbersome on the league side and require the buy-in of players, who sources expect to be skeptical of separating from their families for an indefinite amount of time — perhaps as long as 4½ months, if the inability to stem the coronavirus outbreak keeps teams from playing in their home stadiums in 2020.
At a time when so many are so vulnerable, leaving loved ones behind is a terrible option to have to consider. Of course, for some players, there is less of a sacrifice involved than others. If they’re in favor of playing, they should not be judged harshly. But convincing players who are married with children, for example, will be difficult.
One Mets player not feeling the heat
We don’t know which Mets player said this, but his thoughts on spending the summer in Arizona couldn’t be more clear.
One Mets player who asked not to be identified has concerns about the idea of 30 teams playing an entire summer in Arizona: "It's the desert," he said. "Stuff doesn't live there, it dies there."— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) April 7, 2020
playing outside in AZ in the summer: pic.twitter.com/MzoR596wKF— Jake Diekman (@JakeDiekman) April 7, 2020
More afternoon games than usual would be required to squeeze more games into the schedule. On top of that, doubleheaders would have to be scheduled. Exhaustion would be a factor sooner than later.
Adds former MLB pitcher Brandon McCarthy: "There's no such thing as a bad idea in brainstorming but there sure as s—t are bad ideas in whatever the next step after brainstorming is."
That can be interpreted many ways. On paper, the plan does come across as something that’s feasible upon first examination. But in many ways, it also feels desperate, which could make it dangerous upon execution.
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