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MLB ponders a season with games in Arizona and Florida without fans

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This is just one of several options to save the 2020 season.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Picture the Detroit Tigers playing all their games in Florida, in a division with the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Philadelphia Phillies. This is one of the options on the table as MLB players and clubs are mulling over possible scenarios to get in some semblance of a baseball season in 2020 amidst the restrictions created by the deadly COVID-19 virus and the social distancing guidelines that have been regulating the lives of people all over the world this year.

The plan, as reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, is one of several being considered. All 30 MLB teams would play based out of their spring training facilities. Fifteen teams have facilities in Florida, where they play spring games in the Grapefruit League, and 15 others are based in Arizona, where they play in the Cactus League.

Divisions would be broken down according to their geographic location within those states. Following is how the alignment might look.

FLORIDA GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE

ARIZONA CACTUS LEAGUE

The alignment would mirror the current format in Major League Baseball: two leagues with three divisions of five teams each. However, the teams would all be located within a bus ride of each other, making it much easier to observe social distancing protocol.

MLB had earlier floated a proposal, which was reported in several publications from the Associated Press, that would have all 30 teams playing games in Arizona, where facilities are geographically more compact than those in Florida. That idea came under criticism, including this opinion piece from Nightengale.

All 30 teams playing in Arizona could allow for the season to take place under the current MLB alignment, but half of the teams would need to find safe accommodations. The two-league format, presumably with a World Series to be held between the two league winners, would abandon the American and National League format that has been the standard in the major leagues since 1901. It would also lock teams into divisions that would seem to preclude jumping back to the current format, should there come a time when fans could go to games and teams could play in their home stadiums.

Under either proposal, if the season is to be extended into November, much of the playoffs and World Series would very likely take place in a neutral, warm weather venues.

The agreement between major league owners and players sets three requirements to begin the season, although MLB commissioner Rob Manfred could, in consultation with the union, waive them.

  1. No governmental edicts on mass gatherings that would prevent teams from playing in their home stadiums.
  2. No travel restrictions in the United States or Canada.
  3. The determination, after talking with health experts and the union, that playing does not expose players, staff or fans to health risks.

Obstacles that would need to be addressed before a season could begin include the safety of the players and those who come in contact with them, and ensuring that any player who contracts the COVID-19 virus is immediately quarantined. Players would have to be separated and essentially quarantined when they are not engaged in baseball activities, and frequent testing of players and club officials would be required to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.

Making tests available to asymptomatic players earning salaries in the millions while average people with symptoms have difficulty being tested and diagnosed would create a public relations nightmare for the game. The appearance of baseball players getting special treatment would not go over well while the rest of the nation is still under stay at home rules.

Major League Baseball is a $10.5 billion industry, with most of the revenue coming from national and local television contracts. Players and owners alike have millions of dollars at stake in getting a season played, but the logistics of playing while a highly contagious virus is spreading across the nation remains problematic.

If these obstacles could be overcome, and the safety of players and others could be ensured, we might have a baseball season in 2020 without fans, which most fans would agree is much better than no baseball at all.

What do you think about this proposal?

Poll

Do you like the proposals of having games in Florid and/or Arizona with no fans?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    Yes, just give me baseball
    (138 votes)
  • 21%
    No, wait until games can be played with fans in every major league city
    (38 votes)
176 votes total Vote Now