If you ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, baseball in its traditional form won't be returning any time soon.
Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, revealed that he simply can't envision a scenario where fans flock to the ballpark to watch a Major League Baseball game this summer.
"I cannot see a return this year to what we consider normal," he told Jack Curry of YES Network in a digital interview on Monday.
This sobering update is certainly discouraging news for the optimists that have remained hopeful for baseball's return in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. There is, however, still some hope. Fauci confirmed that he believes the MLB season could still be played in 2020, so long as the league accommodates to social distancing practices and takes necessary precautions.
Within Fauci's comprehensive interpretation of this unprecedented situation, he believes it is "possible" and "reasonable" for some of the proposed plans – with players isolating in one city or games played in stadiums without fans – to come to fruition.
"You could either have a situation where you get the group of players, you put them in a few cities and make sure they're not infected, you test them so they don't infect each other, and you have baseball in – as much as it's tough to say – in a spectator-less environment," Dr. Fauci explained. "[Then] you have people playing in an environment in which people can watch on television. The revenue is not going to be the same as when you have a packed stadium ... but I think having them play on television is certainly better than nothing."
Major League Baseball has reportedly discussed a handful of different blueprints recently that would fall within these coronavirus-induced constraints.
The proposed "Arizona Plan" would relocate all 30 big-league teams to Arizona where all games would take place in Cactus League venues, as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field. Players, coaches and all staff would be tested prior to conception to ensure the virus doesn't infiltrate the baseball community and isolation will be maintained throughout the entire operation.
Additionally, MLB could be open to a realignment of divisions, playing the course of this season within the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. That would allow teams to have some familiarity, returning to each organization's spring complex and facing teams in close proximity to still limit travel.
Although it's impossible to predict, Fauci said depending on how the virus continues to spread nationwide, there could be certain scenarios where some fans are permitted entry into stadiums. Nonetheless, it would be far from what we're all accustomed to.
"Another version of that is to limit the amount of people in a stadium and make sure you seat them in a way where they are really quite separated and maybe even wearing facial covers," he told Curry in the YES Network exclusive. "People look at that and say, 'what are you crazy?' To me, it's better than no baseball at all, that's the point."
In all likelihood, in Fauci's eyes, a return to normalcy for sporting events isn't going to be in "just a few months." He expects this gradual process to extend into next fall and winter.
Even in a situation where much of the concerns regarding contracting the virus have been quelled, Fauci said physical separation and protective masks will still be a must. In other words, baseball's best chance to return is strictly to be watched remotely.
"It's going to be the virus that determines what the timetable is," Fauci said. "You don't pack a stadium. I think quite likely – although it's always dangerous to predict – I think it's more likely that you're going to have a television baseball than a spectator baseball."
Watch the entirety of Jack Curry's conversation with Dr. Fauci, touching on coronavirus-related topics in addition to his unwavering baseball fandom on the YES Network's Youtube channel by clicking here.
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