Report: MLB, MLBPA Hashing Out Plan With a Possible Start as Early as May

Chris Halicke

Major League Baseball and the players union (MLBPA) are working on a plan that could have the baseball season start as early as May, according to a report by ESPN's Jeff Passan. The plan also has the backing of public health officials from the federal government. 

Pump the brakes before you get too excited. There's a lot to unpack here.

In ESPN's report, there are a number of roadblocks that both MLB and the MLBPA would have to hurdle in order for this plan to work. There is much more than meets the eye in this situation, and if it wasn't obvious enough already, a plan like this is not at all simplistic. 

All 30 Major League ball clubs would play their games in empty ballparks in the Phoenix area, including Arizona Diamondbacks' home Chase Field and 10 spring training facilities. In doing so, players, coaching staff, and essential team officials would have to live in self isolation at local hotels and only be allowed to travel to and from the stadium. 

A vital part of this plan also includes the access to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing with a quick turnaround in results, all while not reducing access for the general public. 

If that sounds too difficult, we're just getting started. 

Another contingency, and a rather crucial one at that, rests on the players accepting the indefinite length of time away from their families. What happens with the spread of COVID-19 in the general public is out of Major League Baseball's hands. If the situation with the general public worsens, players could be in Arizona for as long as 4 1/2 months playing the baseball season, all while separated from their families. 

It didn't take long for players who have read ESPN's report to chime in on that little tidbit. 

It goes without saying that as soon as MLB would get the "all clear" from public health officials, they would go back and play in their home stadiums. However, in a rapidly-changing situation such as this, there's just no way of knowing if that's a possibility any time soon.

Ultimately, baseball would have to shut down again if a player or team official tested positive for COVID-19, right? To quote Cliff Murdoch, the fictional baseball announcer from Rookie of the Year, "You were wrong again, Ernie!"

"While the possibility of a player or staff member testing positive for the coronavirus exists, even in a secured setting, officials do not believe that a positive test alone would necessarily be cause to quarantine an entire team or shut down the season, sources said."

-Jeff Passan, ESPN

The report goes on to say MLB could allow teams to carry "significantly expanded rosters" that would account for a positive test. The idea of expanded rosters is supposed to also help teams combat the extreme heat of Arizona summers. 

Then to top everything off, there's a laundry list of possibilities being discussed between MLB and the MLBPA on how the season could possibly get underway, all while maintaining the health and safety of players. ESPN's report cites the following possibilities:

  • Implementing an electronic strike zone (to allow umpires to keep their distance from catchers)
  • Seven-inning doubleheaders, which would aid MLB's effort in salvaging most or all of the 162-game season
  • No mound visits from the catcher or pitching coach
  • Players and coaches sitting in the stands six feet apart to adhere to social distancing practices
  • Players being mic'd up for added entertainment value

The desire for baseball to return in 2020 is undeniable. MLB and the players have to do their due diligence and mull over any ideas on how to save the season, no matter how hasty. 

This plan is as hasty as it gets – and it still may not save the season.

***UPDATE***

Major League Baseball issued a statement on Tuesday morning regarding contingency plans for the baseball season.

"MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence one the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so. While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan. While we continue to interact regularly with government and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association. The health and safety of our employees, players, fans, and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus."

-Major League Baseball

Do you like the plan MLB and the players are reportedly discussing? Leave your opinion below in the comments section.

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