Empty stadiums in Arizona one of many ideas for starting 2020 season - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Empty stadiums in Arizona one of many ideas for starting 2020 season

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

As hard as it may be to comprehend, the canceled Opening Day was just 13 days ago. So much has changed since then, and baseball is trying to prevent a full season from being lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

When fans woke up on Tuesday, many read a report from ESPN.com that MLB and the Players Association were discussing inventive ideas to play what they could of a 2020 season.

One idea that reportedly was gaining traction was to gather all 30 major league teams in Arizona and begin the season as early as sometime next month.

The idea was intriguing, even if it had many logistical questions. Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Brett Anderson took to Twitter, highlighting a passage in the ESPN.com report, that questions whether players would accept a possible 4 ½-month quarantine in Arizona without their families.

“It begins and ends right here,” he wrote.

The idea that players and major league staffs would stay in relative isolation for an extended period, traveling only to and from the ballpark, is an unpopular one.

Eireann Dolan, the wife of Washington Nationals reliver Sean Doolittle, who is widely followed on Twitter for her outspoken opinions, denounced the idea, writing:

“Ok now what about the non-millionaire hotel workers, security staff, grounds crews, media members, team traveling staffs, clubhouse attendants, janitorial workers, food service workers, and the billion other people required to make that 3.5 hour game happen every night?”

Later Tuesday morning, MLB released a statement:

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“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once 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 governmental 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.”

Staging 15 major league games per day in Arizona would be difficult. There are only 10 spring training facilities in addition to Chase Field, home of the Diamondbacks. Additional fields used by local colleges would have to be employed.

Playing outdoor games in Arizona during spring training in February and March is fine, but in June, July and August, the daytime weather is brutally hot with temperatures in Phoenix averaging 100 degrees or more.

If no fans are going to be admitted, and the games become, in effect, studio shows for local or national television broadcasts, accommodations would need to be made for television trucks, where social distancing is impossible.

It would be a big negative for MLB for it to lose an entire season, especially when it’s already in a difficult competition with other sports for fans.

If there’s no season, there could be no baseball from last October until March 2021. The NBA and NHL, which played nearly all of their regular seasons, could resume next fall or winter with less damage than baseball. Should the pandemic abate later this summer or early fall, the NFL and college football could proceed as well.

Many avid fans long for the return of baseball, but know there’s something more important at stake.

It seems premature, at best, to be speculating about these ideas because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines, limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people, are in effect for another month. Many state guidelines, including Maryland, limit groups to 10 or fewer.

MLB is afraid of losing television revenue and should this no-fans proposal be adopted in some form, they’d be relinquishing all gate and concession revenue.

Perhaps the crisis will lessen in the coming weeks, and if games must be played in empty parks, they could be in major league stadiums with teams self-quarantining in their hotels, if necessary. Marylanders seem to have done an excellent job at adopting Governor Hogan’s guidelines. Vehicle and foot traffic is a fraction of what it normally is.

There is hope that baseball comes back in some form this year. The good news is that MLB and the players are determined to make that happen. Unless and until it does, there probably will be other over-the-top proposals to contemplate. Maybe one will come to fruition.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 8, 2020 at 7:34 am

    Rich,I don’t think anyone knows where this is all going, but I think a quote from the immortal Terrance Mann is in order:
    .
    “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game — it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
    .
    Well maybe the people won’t actually come this year , but buck up my friends … Baseball will survive.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 8, 2020 at 7:51 am

      Ken, baseball will survive, but it and many other normal outlets are missing, making life seem out of whack.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        April 8, 2020 at 8:15 am

        Absolutely everything is out of whack. I’m one of the lucky ones who’s job affords him a way to work from home. Just imagine being one of the millions who are out of work, or worse yet, sickened or worse by this germ. Baseball is secondary at best in the world of concerns. Yet …it’s absence is certainly relevant.

      • BirdsCaps

        April 9, 2020 at 2:18 am

        Even after 9/11 and during ww2, there was baseball. I can’t wait until I can start complaining about the birds again. There are currently no outlets for distraction besides movies, shows and books. I’m also bullish on the idea of fans at games after June, but that’s contingent on more covid data that will start to come out Friday. P.S. Assuming hockey comes back, the caps will be well rested( they were dragging and tired before the shutdown) and I think they are well suited to win another cup.

    • Robinson Robinson Weaver Palmer Murray Ripken

      April 10, 2020 at 1:11 am

      Mooooo Yaaaaa

  2. Orial

    April 8, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Can the whole Arizona idea. Shoot for a July 4th opener/celebration,play 80-100 games and hope for the best. Mrs.Doolittle’s(sounds like a movie) concerns are legit. Her concerns do raise a question–are these employees eligible for any stimulus relief AND MLB and the owners eligible for any Corp relief? On the bright side this could be a wasted year on the Yankees big investment–Garrett Cole. The click is ticking on that team which is now in it’s prime.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      April 8, 2020 at 10:37 am

      Do I detect a glint of glee in those last two sentences? 🙂

  3. boss61

    April 8, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    I love baseball. I miss baseball. As I edge toward retirement, I have more time for it than I did at any time, well, ever. And now, this.

    I want baseball to return as soon as is feasibly possible. I worry about the future and longevity of the sport, as is. For reasons addressable and not, it seems not to capture the hearts, minds and attention span of many under-30s, who form the future economic backbone of the paying public. And Rich, your point about the seasonality and the impact that coronavirus has on baseball, disproportionately to the other professional sports is well-founded and cannot be overstated.

    The game the O’s played against the White Sox several years ago during the Freddie Gray unrest evidences the weirdness of playing in empty stadiums. The roar of the cheering crowd is part of the fabric of the game, and I do not believe baseball should (or feasibly could) restart without widespread relaxation of present social distancing guidelines. And I believe that will take either herd immunity or a vaccine. Both are many months to over a year away, from what I have read.

    I’d love to see a late-summer or fall mini-season on neutral, warm-weather sites, with fans tested negative, among players and others present tested negative. That is a lot of testing for a single game, times multiple teams, times multiple games. It’s just hard to imagine before the 2021 season at the soonest. But I also believe that the other professional sports will not start later this summer or fall for much the same reason. We’re likely absent spectator sports for the long haul.

    I hope I am wrong, but for reasons in our blog and otherwise, its hard to imagine how it can safely occur.

  4. OriolesNumber1Fan

    April 8, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    I don’t believe all games in Arizona is the answer. They certainly don’t have enough stadiums to play all major and minor league games. If players on an MLB team get hurt how do you bring up any minor leaguers to fill in without them playing games.
    I know most players want to play only because they want to get paid. I do miss baseball but the NFL draft and in the coming weeks, the MLB draft are right around the corner. I admit I get my sports fix wherever I can since I don’t play anymore due to knee injuries. I just hope everyone stays safe and well and God bless.

    • CalsPals

      April 9, 2020 at 12:27 am

      I thought they were just talking about the majors, very unrealistic to play major & minor league games there, but this is the first I heard of the minor league games being played there…go O’s…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        April 9, 2020 at 4:55 pm

        They are/were talking about just Major League games. But my point is they would have to play minor league games as well in case someone on a Major League roster got hurt. How can you bring up a minor leaguer without that person playing.

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