An idea so crazy that it just might work.
There is a ton to digest in ESPN's report early Tuesday morning which outlined MLB's ambitious plan to potentially play regular-season games in empty stadiums in Arizona by late May or early June.
Coronavirus tests capable of generating same-day results would need to be more widespread and available to MLB in a way that does not "diminish access for the general public," per the report.
MLB's plan "has the support of high-ranking federal public health officials who believe the league can safely operate amid the coronavirus pandemic."
Under the proposed plan, the entire league would settle in Arizona for the 2020 regular season. Games would be played at Chase Field and at surrounding spring training complexes in the Phoenix area.
Players would be sequestered almost like jurors, able to go to and from the stadium and basically live in a different form of quarantine. They'd be away from their families for a prolonged period of time, which would suck. A lot of us are in this same boat, sacrificing our ability to be with some of our loved ones to keep them safe.
Early June for regular-season games is a target date with teams needing at least a week to 10 days to reach a level of preparedness for the grind. But there is no definitive word as this entire plan is dependent on the availability of COVID-19 tests with rapid turnarounds.
It's also dependent on Arizona not becoming a hot spot. As of midnight Tuesday, there were 2,456 total COVID-19 cases in Arizona, 23rd among U.S. states.
What if a player tests positive after teams begin working out?
Per ESPN, "officials do not believe that a positive test alone would necessarily be cause to quarantine an entire team or shut down the season."
This is interesting in comparison to the tentative plan in South Korea. The KBO is scheduled to play exhibition games two weeks from today, but former MLB pitcher Dan Straily, now pitching in Korea, told ESPN this earlier in the week:
"If anybody, anybody — if the No. 1 starting pitcher to the person cleaning, security, R&D — anybody gets sick in that time, we postpone two weeks."
In theory, a baseball player in the states who tests positive for COVID-19 after games begin again could be immediately quarantined to mitigate the effects. But how will that play out in practice? Look at how many asymptomatic NBA players unknowingly spread the virus around the league before it shut down.
One positive test might not be grounds for another shutdown, but what about two? What about three?
The goofiest, BEST proposal
With such close quarters in dugouts, players could reportedly be seated in the stands apart from each other. What a hilarious visual. Picture Bryce Harper hitting a home run and 20 of his Phillies teammates scattered throughout the lower bowl pumping their fists like fans. Add in the potential for more players to be mic'd up and this could turn into a lot of fun.
There are so many weird wrinkles to this plan that you wonder how many elements were floated out by the league to gauge fan and media reaction.
Convenient excuse to incorporate the electronic strike zone, which is a consideration because of the close proximity between umpire, catcher and hitter.
Would the players agree to all this?
They'll want to get paid. Their 2020 salary is prorated based on the length of the season. Only 4% of player salaries leaguewide are guaranteed in the event of a canceled season.
As cooky as this plan is, it beats no baseball and no paychecks after May.
But what about the lost ticket sales for empty-stadium games?
They could be made up, in part, by amended national TV broadcast agreements. There would be such a massive demand for live sports in early June if baseball is back that money could be recouped in the form of an expanded national TV package and advertising money.
It would be a chance for baseball to take center stage and create so many new fans. Perhaps that could offset or soften a season of lost ticket sales.
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