By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
I don’t know about you, but I can’t decide which I’m more surprised about: the fact that Major League Baseball wants to resume in May or that it’s actually engaging in some forward thinking.
Feels like a coin flip.
In case you haven’t heard, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported early Tuesday morning that MLB and the players union (MLBPA) have been discussing a plan that would allow baseball to begin play in Arizona in May. Of course, any such talk should be met with great skepticism amid the COVID-19 pandemic for an assortment of reasons. And yet, the idea makes sense of many levels based on the details in Passan’s story.
First of all, anyone who knows anything about spring training knows that the Arizona setup is perfect. Between Chase Field (the in-season home of the Arizona Diamondbacks) and the spring training sites in the Phoenix area, Arizona has a multitude of playing facilities that are all a relatively short drive from one another. The preponderance of hotels will allow for teams to be quarantined. And the weather, of course, is baseball-friendly.
But here’s the bigger story: in its plan, according to Passan, MLB is coming up with some creative alternatives, including: electronic strike zones that would allow the umpires to practice social distancing; no mound visits by players or coaches (for the same reason); seven-inning doubleheaders; players sitting in the empty stands instead of the dugouts to again practice social distancing.
Is it perfect? No. But it’s something.
As for the plan for action should a player test positive for COVID-19 … he would be quarantined. And because of that real threat, baseball would operate with a larger game-day roster and have access to full 40-man rosters (which is essentially what the sport does now when players are placed on the injured list).
Obviously, there are lots of logistical issues still to cover, though it should be noted that, according to Passan, baseball has the support of national health officials with regard to this proposal. And for a sport that could lose significant market share if the NBA and NHL are to return during the summer months – when baseball typically operates alone on the sports landscape – the current plan being discussed could give baseball something it badly needs as the sport battles with issues like pace of play and, for lack of a better term, entertainment value.
And a golden one at that.