Could Baseball Return in May? More Importantly, Should It?

What we wouldn't give to get this guy back on the field, but at what cost?
Photo by Eric Sauseda
What we wouldn't give to get this guy back on the field, but at what cost?
Everyone who loves sports misses them terribly. Not only is it something people enjoy, it is a way to pass the time. And God knows we all need to find more ways to pass the time. This week, reports have leaked that Major League Baseball is considering a way to start the season as early as May and possibly even salvage a full 162-game season. A more important question is should they?

The concepts MLB has supposedly floated are outlandish and bordering on desperate, but apparently, everything is on the table. Owners and players are losing money hand-over-fist as are TV networks, agents and everyone associated with the sport including all the low wage employees who work for teams, at ballparks and in supporting roles. So, it isn't a surprise they are making plans that sound a little ridiculous.

The idea would be to put all 30 teams in Arizona to play at a combination of stadiums including the Diamondbacks stadium and a host of other smaller ballparks used during spring training by half the league. There would be an electronic strike zone to help keep catchers and umpires at a more reasonable distance. Teams would be sequestered in hotels. They would consider seven-inning double or even triple headers to maximize the number of games getting played.

Make no mistake, people would watch. Even if they played without fans, which seems a nearly foregone conclusion if they planned to ramp up in a month, the spectacle on TV with millions of people stuck at home binge watching Downton Abbey for the third time (no hate) would bring some welcome relief. And, if we're being honest, the very thought of testing out an electronic strike zone might make the whole thing worth the risk.

But, the real problem here goes well beyond logistics. It comes down to how you protect everyone involved. As a writer at The Ringer pointed out:

Baseball games don’t just need players and coaches and umpires. They also need grounds crews. They need trainers. They need janitors and laundry workers and security, and clubhouse attendants and team chefs and equipment personnel. Team hotels need almost all of those people, too. And games will likely need some sort of scouting or front office framework, and media members. They’ll certainly need television crews on site—even if announcers might be able to call games remotely, camera operators and producers would have to penetrate the biodome—if the goal is to provide entertainment for the masses without fans in the stands.

In the mad rush to get baseball going again, we seem to be forgetting that loads of vulnerable people may get roped into this. Even with massive testing — that allegedly won't strain testing for non-MLB teams and staff (yeah right) — will you test everyone, every day? And if someone is exposed in that compact environment, everyone is exposed.

We all want a return to some sense of normalcy. Baseball, America's pastime, certainly qualifies. Lord knows watching a live game on TV would make a LOT of people happy. But at what expense? No doubt teams and agents are less worried about their losses than they are salivating at the thought of being the only live thing on television for millions of people trapped in their houses. But, that shouldn't be enough to place thousands at risk of illness and death, never mind the potential strain on hospitals in Arizona as a result.

As much as we all want baseball back, we suggest pumping the brakes on any radical early return and focus on what it will take to salvage whatever season remains when COVID-19 finally blows over.