Sports leagues are looking for a way back to action, and MLB is having talks about a possible return as early as May.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan published a lengthy article on Monday night discussing MLB’s effort to begin training as early as next month. What’s notable is that Passan says the plan has the support of high-ranking federal health officials.
The plan would include all teams playing games in the Phoenix area at parks such as Chase Field (the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks), as well as the numerous spring training facilities in the area. Players and staff would live in relative isolation, according to Passan’s article, which would hopefully stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Part of the reason why federal officials might support this plan is because of the age and health of the players, who are low risk for experiencing severe consequences from the virus. But keeping others such as staff, coaches and umpires healthy would be key. The league would not shut down if there were positive cases for the virus. Instead, they might add more players to the roster to make up for the need to quarantine a player.
The availability of testing would be critical in allowing such a plan to move forward, which is central to the NBA’s discussions to return as well. The other big issue is whether players would agree to be away from their families for perhaps several months straight to play in these conditions. There is some thought that players would do so in order to collect pay checks and to help provide entertainment to the country during these times of difficulty.
The belief is that if the plan moved forward, there would be a brief resumption of spring training before going into the regular season.
ESPN’s article also mentioned the discussion of several possible changes that would comply with social distancing guidelines. That would include ideas such as:
– umpires several feet away from batters and using electronic strike zones
– no mound visits
– players sitting six feet apart in the stands rather than close together in a dugout
Not having fans would take away the major source of revenue from MLB, but the belief is the possibility of an increased TV audience might offset that somewhat. Still, all of this would be better than having no season at all, which is why MLB and the players’ union is discussing multiple options.
This sort of talk is much more encouraging for sports fans than some of the doomsday scenarios shared by others recently.