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Moment of Truth: Should MLB Play Games Without Fans?

Assuming they would be allowed to by the government, should Major League Baseball have games without fans in 2020?

Baseball fans are clamoring for the return of their beloved sport. Sports fans in general would probably be willing to tune into a sport they're not usually a fan of just to get some sort of sports fix.

The bottom line is we don't know when or if baseball will return in 2020. Optimists believe we could have baseball in June or July while pessimists believe all sports, even the NFL, won't be played this year.

The public health situation remains fluid and continues to change on a daily basis. With a plethora of variables to consider, the future is impossible to predict. In turn, Major League Baseball has to turn over every stone and get creative with their ideas on any potential way they can salvage the season.

Sports Illustrated's MLB staff shared their thoughts on if MLB should consider games without fans (READ HERE). Tom Verducci, Stephanie Apstein, Emma Baccellieri, Connor Grossman, Matt Martell, and Michael Shapiro all lay out their arguments for baseball games sans fans.

In my column from last week, I wrote that if MLB and the players union could not agree to play games without fans, there would not be baseball in 2020. Even a week later, I stand by that.

Regarding the question of if MLB should play games without fans, I subscribe to the return of baseball with or without fans. 

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As a disclaimer, I do not believe the "Arizona plan" reported by ESPN is a viable solution. Isolating players from their families for potentially months at a time is a deal breaker. I would not do that myself, so I would not expect MLB players to do it either.

I personally think waiting for improvement in the public health situation is the best solution. If that means we don't get baseball until July or August, even then without fans, so be it. I believe a shortened season would actually be better for entertainment value anyway. MLB could have an abbreviated season run through October then have the playoffs in November at neutral sites. 

A shortened season puts more emphasis on regular season games, which may be something casual baseball fans enjoy. Instead of having the grind of a six-month marathon season, have a three-month sprint. Expand rosters and limit doubleheaders to help teams avoid injuries.

There is no solution that is going to please every fan. There will be people that write off the season (if one is played) just because of how different it is. With a recent survey revealing a vast majority of Americans that are unwilling to attend games without a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, I'll double down on my notion that if baseball is played in 2020, there will be games without fans. If people really want to watch baseball this year, games without fans is inevitable.

An advantage of baseball returning without fans is getting some people back to work. Just as an example, broadcast freelancers, all the people who work behind the scenes to bring games to life on TV, get paid by the games they work. If there are games, there's work for people in those situations. 

For me, I'd rather have some semblance of baseball, or sports in general, than none at all. Unless it's in a baseball biodome. 

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