A Rollercoaster Week Leaves Us No Closer To Knowing When & How MLB Returns

John Hickey

We started this last week with no baseball being on the schedule and ended the week with, no surprise in an age of pandemic, no baseball being on the schedule.

For all of that, it’s been something of a whack-a-mole week for those looking for clarity about where Major League Baseball is headed as the sport and the country attempts to get past the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

But by week's end, there was the hope - possibly faint - that the Oakland A's and the other 29 clubs might be back playing in their home parks, if not at the season's start, by season's end. And that fans might be able to be on hand, again possibly by season's end.

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci went on the YES Network to reiterate his opinion that when it comes to getting MLB games up and running, “there’s a way of doing that.”

“Nobody comes to the stadium. Put (players) in big hotels, wherever you want to play,” he said in his original Good Luck America Snapchat interview suggesting MLB should be able to reopen. “Keep them very well surveilled. Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”

Then came Wednesday, when New York Yankees team president Randy Levine took to Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria” to suggest that, long-term at least, playing in front of empty seats isn’t practical.

"How can we get into our parks as soon as we can with all the appropriate mitigation,” Levine told host Maria Bartiromo. “Social distancing, taking temperature checks, wearing masks, wearing gloves. I think it's all doable because I think that, to have games just on TV for the whole season for many, many reasons is not practical."

Levine suggested that one idea being kicked around is to start with no fans, perhaps in Arizona of Florida, then have teams gradually move into their home park.

“Do you start with no fans, and then move into your ballpark with limited fans?” he asked. “And how would you go about doing that? Everything is on the table.“

And then came Friday’s suggestion from theathletic.com’s Ken Rosenthal that the number of places where baseball could restart keeps expanding.

The first reports called for all 30 teams playing in empty stadiums in Arizona. Then Arizona and Florida. And as time passes and situations change, so does the number of locales that could be involved increases.

“Now it seems that with the possibility that baseball is considering expanding on what was discussed earlier,” Rosenthal said in an interview on MLB on Fox. ”There was talk of playing in three states, Arizona, Florida and Texas. My understanding is that they have also talked about starting five states, or maybe 10-12 states depending again on what the experts and the government advises. Things change every day every week.”

What seems clear is that California, home to five MLB franchises including Oakland, won’t be on any early-open list. Ditto for New York and its two teams given New York being at the center of one major COVID-19 outbreak.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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