In recent weeks, Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, Jeff Passan at ESPN, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale have reported on rumored plans for how Major League Baseball might try to manage a shortened season if/when they are able to play baseball this summer.
It’s not going to be easy, of course, however they try to work things out, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s continued spread in the U.S. and around the world, and there are numerous logistical and health issues to consider, but as Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said in a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon, he has been impressed with the effort behind the scenes as the league, players, and owners try to come up with a plan.
“I’m not going to get into specifics because they’re all hypotheticals at this point,” Rizzo said in his third call in the last few weeks.
“I will give credit to the Players’ Association and to Major League Baseball,” he continued.
“We’ve said in these prior calls that MLB is going to have to be very creative, and the players are going to have to be very creative in instituting a season for 2020.
“They’ve got some really interesting ideas. Of course there are a million moving parts that they’re going to have to navigate to make this thing work, but I give them all the credit in the world for trying to get us back to baseball in a safe productive manner that’s within the guidelines of the CDC and MLB, and with the safety of players, fans, and staff at the forefront.”
Have the leaked plans he’s heard and read about over the past few weeks made him any more or less confident that baseball will be played at some point in 2020?
“I don’t think any of the new proposals are ideas that have changed my optimism on playing the season,” Rizzo said.
“I’ve been optimistic that we will get some form of a baseball season,” he explained.
“I have nothing to base that upon other than my positivity. But I think that any time you have Major League Baseball and the [MLB] Players’ Association and the players [wanting] to do something, they really dig in and try to find out ways to get it done. So I think everybody wants to play.
“I know the players are champing at the bit to play, but they also realize they have to do this in a safe manner for themselves, their families, for the fan base, and for everybody surrounding Major League Baseball.”
Ryan Zimmerman, a National for each of his 15 MLB seasons, raised some issues he has with the plan that Rosenthal and Passan reported was under consideration: to have 30 teams out in Arizona (or another centralized location) where they could play out an abbreviated season in the local parks without fans in attendance, while staying quarantined.
Zimmerman, who’s writing a diary during the pandemic for the Associated Press, asked a simple question: “Is it really that important to figure out how to play baseball right now?”
How could they clean out and sterilize stadiums (locker rooms, facilities) between games with multiple teams playing in a small number of parks?
Zimmerman and his wife are also expecting their third child in June, raising another obvious and important question:
“If this ‘bubble’ in Arizona was going to happen starting in May, you’re trying to tell me I’m not going to be able to be with my wife and see my kid until October?
“I’m going to go four or five months without seeing my kid when it’s born? I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen.”
“I know everything’s being done by everyone in good faith,” Zimmerman added. “We want to play; we want to give people something to watch on TV; people love sports.
“But you’ve got to consider the human element. Maybe pump the brakes a little bit. Maybe this wasn’t supposed to be leaked yet. I don’t know if we’re at the point to set this sort of thing up yet.
“This virus situation is obviously bigger than sports. Bigger than anything. People’s lives and health take precedence over everything.”
With those considerations take precedence and lead MLB to decide against trying to play a season this summer?
Will they be able to wait and see how the situation plays out and alter plans accordingly, so they can play?
Are you as positive as Rizzo, who thinks that they’ll find a way to play? Are you more on the Zimmerman side of saying that maybe playing baseball this summer isn’t the biggest thing to consider right now?