Report: MLB considering opening season in empty spring training ballparks

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

As Major League Baseball faces the potential of a significantly shortened or completely lost season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league is considering every option that would allow the most possible games to be played.

Unfortunately, based on Ken Rosenthal’s latest report for The Athletic, the league might be running out of solutions that are both safe and within logistical reason.

According to Rosenthal, MLB is now considering beginning the season exclusively in Arizona or Florida, where games would be played at spring training ballparks with no fans in the stands.

From The Athletic:

MLB is prioritizing public health as it examines all possibilities, sources say. The season, at least initially, could be played in Florida or more likely Arizona, where spring-training parks are more concentrated. But the logistics of quarantining 30 teams in one area would be extremely complex and potentially controversial, sources say, requiring local, state and federal government cooperation and resources that might be necessary to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

MLB isn’t the first major sports league to consider this approach in order to complete the 2020 season. Earlier this week, it was reported the NBA is considering finishing out its season in one central city, with Las Vegas being mentioned as the most likely location. That plan would include the entire postseason.

Arizona would make the most sense for MLB in terms of cutting down travel and getting more games played in a shorter time frame. More than half the league has a facility and ballpark in or around the Phoenix area. It could work under different circumstances.

Simply put, these are not the right circumstances.

As Rosenthal notes, an entire league converging on one city would seemingly put everyone directly involved with MLB and the community at large at greater risk.

To play under quarantine, the sport would need to protect the health not only of players and other club personnel, but also umpires and those producing the television broadcasts, plus hotel workers, bus drivers and anyone else involved with the players and games.

“Your margin of error is so small,” one baseball official said.

As an example, the official cited the possibility of a hotel worker going home, catching the virus and bringing it back into the baseball environment the next day. The effect might be similar to what occurs on a cruise ship. Infections would spread rapidly, and the sport again would need to shut down.

That’s a pretty grim downside. Those concerns alone should be enough to squash this idea.

Will MLB eventually play games at empty spring training ballparks? (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Will MLB eventually play games at empty spring training ballparks? (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Keeping players from their families for weeks, if not months, amid a national health crisis is a tough strategy to get behind as well.

That doesn’t even take into account the health care resources that would have to be available to provide testing for the virus or just look after players who might be injured. It wouldn’t be a great look for MLB players in Arizona to be getting quick MRIs and other medical tests when other areas are struggling to provide urgent care for COVID-19 patients.

That’s at least three big strikes against this plan already.

We don’t blame MLB for spitballing ideas here. Perhaps opening the season in Arizona or another central location will look like a more reasonable option in June or July. It’s possible, but it’s awfully difficult to imagine given the lens we’re looking through right now.

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