Some smoke is slowly starting to emerge over what the MLB is planning to do with its suspended 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The pie-in-the-sky hope for returning to action is reportedly an opening day in early July, with a second spring training in June. Per Rosenthal, the Cleveland Indians told their players to be prepared for camp to begin again on June 10 and an opening day on July 1.
However, both reports conceded that MLB will need the coronavirus situation to get wildly better over the coming weeks for a July opening day to be feasible at all. Particularly, the league needs the United States’ coronavirus testing capacity to significantly increase.
Even then, it might not be enough.
MLB is going to have to sacrifice something
Oddly enough, Rosenthal reports that the idea of teams playing the season in quarantine conditions while moving between stadiums and hotels in a single area is seen as “the least desirable option,” and that the league hopes to play in as many of its home cities as possible.
That could be highly unfeasible. Multiple experts, including White House coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, have described the quarantine league as the ideal way to play games amid the conditions of the pandemic. While the idea of an isolated season has its drawbacks, it comes with the bonus of significantly reducing chances of the virus spreading into the league.
If the league is playing games with teams moving between cities, that means more air travel and hotels every week. It means an increased potential exposure to the virus, and an increased chance of losing a place to play if that state’s government issues another stringent stay-at-home order.
So MLB can choose between a potentially uneven and unsafe season by moving between cities, or an unpopular and unpleasant option for players by setting up a quarantine league. Either way, players could potentially refuse to play given the sacrifices of increased COVID-19 risk or isolation.
MLB is also going to need an enormous amount of coronavirus testing to pull any plan off.
The NBA, a league with much smaller rosters and a season that was nearing its end, reportedly estimated it will need 15,000 tests to start back up again. MLB will almost certainly need more, and that probably means waiting until the United States has mass access to testing.
Some fans might be heartened by seeing South Korea’s KBO already back in action, but the U.S. has a long way to go before South Korea can be considered an example of what can be done in the country.
There is so much left to figure out, and so much that needs to happen before an MLB — and NBA, and NHL — return is even remotely feasible. We’ll have to wait and see what MLB thinks it can pull off in the coming months.
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