MLB and the MLBPA are discussing a plan to get the 2020 season started by having everyone, including the New York Yankees, play in Arizona.
You have to give MLB and the MLBPA credit. The two sides are trying everything they can to not only ensure that there is a 2020 season but to get it started as soon as possible. The two sides have reportedly been discussing a new plan, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, that would have games starting as soon as May.
The plan would have all 30 teams play games at stadiums in the Phoenix area. This would include the Diamondbacks Chase Field as well as a number of spring training facilities. Players and team personnel would be forced to live in isolation in nearby hotels. No fans would be in attendance.
Per Passan, the league does have support for the idea from “high-ranking federal public health officials” and it could allow MLB to be the first major sports league to return to live games.
There are, as you might expect, a ton of logistical challenges that still need to be worked out.
For one thing, it’s going to be extremely difficult to schedule games across 11 locations without creating an imbalance. Only Chase Field is enclosed, which is a major factor considering the midday heat in Arizona during the summer months (part of the reason why the ballpark was built with a roof on it in the first place).
That would mean almost all games would need to be scheduled at night. While that’s not an issue for those on the West Coast, it will wreak havoc for fans on the East Coast. Even starting games at 6 PM local time would mean a consistent stream of late starts for fans back east. While not impossible, it’s hardly ideal.
The plan would require teams not only to isolate in nearby hotels but would reportedly limit travel to to-and-from the ballpark only. Players and personnel would be separated from their families, perhaps for as long as four months. That’s a big sacrifice to ask.
Regular testing would also need to be made available to help prevent any of the players from contracting the coronavirus. Sequestering everyone in hotels could help keep players safe, but there are no guarantees. One player getting sick could result in a chain reaction throughout the rest of the clubhouse, if not beyond.
There are also financial concerns the league must address. Teams rely on ticket and concession sales, none of which they would receive with games being played in Arizona instead of home ballparks. Local media contracts could also be impacted.
Provided every logistical issue can be worked out — including lodging, transportation, security, testing, and more — there are still no guarantees that this plan happens. Teams and players will need time to ramp up activity to be ready for live games, a second spring training if you will. Figuring on the conservative side, teams would need at least three weeks (roughly how long teams had for spring training after the strike ended in 1995). That would put the season start date around late May, at the earliest.
Players want to get back on the field. Fans want games to resume. Everyone wants it to happen safely. MLB and the MLBPA are and will continue to work towards a creative resolution that satisfies everyone. It’s good the sides are discussing options, but this plan, as described, is likely not going to prove feasible.