Since spring training ended abruptly on March 12th and the start of the regular season was put on hold due to COVID-19, New York Yankees fans have been wondering when the 2020 season might begin. Many fans were hoping that the Yanks could at least play half a season, with games beginning in early or mid-July or shortly thereafter.
Efforts to control and reverse the spread of COVID-19 are now being pursued in all 50 states, with social distancing and the prohibition of large gatherings being among the most common policies that have been put in place.
Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami have experienced a huge number of cases and numerous deaths from the virus. These affected cities host one or two baseball teams.
MLB is considering various options on how and when to start a shorter season. One plan under consideration would have all the teams play in two locations, Arizona and Florida, in as many games as possible. Fans would not attend these games, but they would be broadcast to the nation. Another has everyone heading just to Arizona.
But what about the health and safety of the ballplayers? What about the supporting staff and the media who would attend the games? How will they be protected? Will it be safe for ballplayers to travel to the two locations and sit next to each other in the dugout? Lots of things must be worked out before such a plan could be implemented.
At this point, the U.S. has about 640,000 cases of COVID-19 and 28,000 deaths. While there has been a flattening of the curve involving the number of new cases reported in some places in the Northeast, there also have been significant increases in other localities across the country. This virus is impressively contagious and can bring even the strongest among us, Yanks such as Aaron Judge, Gleybor Torres, and Gerrit Cole, to their knees.
Appearing on CNN, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that it could be months before fans are allowed to return to Yankee Stadium because of the coronavirus. “I think it’s going to be awhile,” said de Blasio, per the New York Post. “I think that’s one of the things later in the trajectory.” This doesn’t bode well for baseball in the Bronx anytime soon.
Similarly, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday large gatherings like sporting events or concerts may not resume in the city before 2021 as the nation grapples with mitigating the novel coronavirus pandemic. Garcetti told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “I think we all have never wanted science to work so quickly, but until there’s either a vaccine, some sort of pharmaceutical intervention or herd immunity, the science is the science. And public health officials have made very clear we have miles and miles to walk before we can be back in those environments.”
Garcetti’s assessment – paired with comments from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – underscores just how far the country is from returning to normal life, even as President Donald Trump continues to repeat his desire to reopen the nation’s economy by May 1, just two weeks from now.
What will it take to get the Bombers back in Yankee Stadium? In addition to an all-important vaccine, which will probably take about 18 months to develop, we need effective and safe drugs that can mitigate the dangerous negative effects of the virus. Also, a large percentage of the population is asymptomatic, and we need to be able to identify and track these people. We need a lot more testing than we have done so far.
Also, the scientists are not sure whether those who contract the virus and survive are immune and cannot get it again. If people are immune after they get the virus, how long does the immunity last? What is truly frightening is that many if not most public health experts are predicting a second wave of cases to occur this Fall, just in time for the World Series, maybe between the Yanks and the Los Angeles Dodgers, if baseball was to resume again.
These and other issues must be resolved before it is safe for fans to attend games and baseball players to resume engaging in the sport.
Of course, I realize that there are billions of dollars at stake and that the careers of many baseball players and the jobs of stadium employees are on the line. However, I do not think that it is worth sacrificing the health and safety of fans, employees, and baseball players, including Yankee players, for financial reasons.