There is no real sports news to be found. When that’s the case, members of the sports media understandably latch on to any fodder they can find for takes and perspectives because they’re paid to make sports content and there are only so many stories you can write about what some bored ballplayer Instagrammed. (I’m not even a member of the sports media and I’m doing it now, but I’m acknowledging it up front so I seem cooler than I am.)
At ESPN.com yesterday, Jeff Passan published a report detailing an MLB proposal to restart spring training as soon as next month, with real games starting in June in empty stadiums in Arizona. Passan’s an excellent reporter, and I have no doubt that such a plan has been discussed among MLB officials and MLBPA brass.
But if you’re wondering why nearly every baseball writer in the world has come out and dismissed the plan as wrongheaded and absurd, it’s because a) again, no one has anything else to do and b) it’s totally wrongheaded and absurd.
First and foremost, it assumes it’s going to be safe to put all the players up in Arizona starting in one month. Here in New York, we’ve already been sheltering-in-place for three and a half weeks, and yesterday set a new high mark for COVID deaths. Even if the rate of infection and death drops off starkly starting today, I assume we’re still going to want to keep people separated for at least another month to make sure the virus doesn’t come surging back. Right? We keep waiting on apexes and plateaus, but it’s not like once we hit peak disease it’ll immediately be safe to throw parties.
Also, the plan calls for quarantining players in Arizona hotels and motels for the entirety of their season, outside of the times they’re playing baseball. No family contact. Basically minimum-security prison, except instead of golf you play baseball.
Furthermore, have you ever set foot outside in Arizona in the daytime in May or June? You can’t do it, because it’s way too hot. Phoenix’s entire existence is a scam orchestrated by Friedrich.
Now I’m doing the same thing everyone else just did and telling you why the plan is dumb and unlikely to happen, but the point is only that the plan is dumb and unlikely to happen, and you probably already knew that by now.
The parts that seem especially nefarious, I think, are that includes the adoption of automated strike zones — purportedly to protect umpires — that it eliminates mound visits, and that it calls for “regular use of on-field microphones by players” to make the televised product more compelling.
I actually think all three of those changes would be good for baseball in the long run. My issue is that I suspect Major League Baseball thinks so, too, and that it seems kind of slimy to use the cover of a global pandemic to sneak them into the game at a time when the umpires union and players union would look petty for objecting. Also, it’s at least a little alarming that the details of the so-called Arizona plan should so closely follow Donald Trump’s conference call with sports commissioners over the weekend.
In any case, it’s almost certainly not happening, and every statement MLB has put out since the story broke and uproar followed has made clear that it’s unlikely. I wish it could happen, and I imagine you do too. A lot of us are saying things like, “I’d kill to watch baseball right now,” but we mean it metaphorically, and until we have more information about the virus and how it spreads and how to treat it and how to stop it, carrying out such a plan might mean literally killing people so we could watch baseball.
I’m going to hit you with a Venn diagram for the second day in a row:
“It’ll be safe to have Major League Baseball next month” falls exclusively in the green circle on the left. “We need to prioritize shit besides Major League Baseball” goes in the red circle on the right.
This song remains a banger: