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The tremendous barriers to bringing back baseball

2021 MLB schedule

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 17: A detailed view of a group of Rawlings official Major League baseballs sitting on the field during the Detroit Tigers Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 17, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

MLB Photos via Getty Images

We have talked a lot about the economic challenges of bringing baseball back in 2020. And we’ve talked some about the ways in which Major League Baseball and the MLBPA plan to address the health concerns. All of this talk has created the suggestion of inevitability of baseball’s return, but it’s worth remembering that none of these plans are set in stone yet. Indeed, some of the key components necessary for a 2020 baseball season have yet to be formally proposed or thoroughly discussed.

Into that vacuum comes a major article from, basically, ESPN’s entire team of baseball writers, who examine the challenges facing the league and its players as they try to work out a plan to get back on the field. It deals not just with the money or the COVID-19 tests but the hypotheticals and unknowns of it all.

The story pulls no punches:
What emerges is like nothing that has been attempted in the history of American sport, less a baseball season than a military-style operation in which any number of variables could derail the plan, or, worse, contribute to the spread of the deadly disease.

It’s a long story, but a worthy one that stands as, probably, the most comprehensive overview of these challenges yet published. One that, in some places, seems to suggest that Major League Baseball can pull this off:
Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale professor of health policy who has offered guidance to some sports leagues and teams, said he believes baseball’s plan should work. He noted that data suggest the prevalence of the virus among top-level athletes is likely to be extremely low, plus it will be easier to limit exposure without fans and other workers at the ballparks.

But it’s also one that, in other places, suggests that there are risks that even MLB’s plans as currently known -- plans which have met with mostly favorable reviews -- may not be sufficient to address:

Baseball is in a difficult position: Quarantining players who come in contact with infected individuals could force MLB to shut down entire teams.

Most health experts interviewed by ESPN said they believe MLB would be increasing the risk of an outbreak by not quarantining more extensively, if only for a few days.

“CDC guidelines are pretty clear that anybody who makes substantial contact with somebody who has the virus needs to be quarantined,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Health Institute, told ESPN. “I think baseball has to ask themselves on what basis are they going against the CDC guidelines. How confident are they gonna be that another player on another team didn’t have substantial contact with that player? It just strikes me as risky. My feeling is it just depends on how lucky you feel.”

There is a lot to think about on this topic. This article is an excellent place to begin.

Follow @craigcalcaterra