Major League Baseball — like every other pro sports league — is looking for ways to be able to have a 2020 season despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that MLB is considering a plan that will have “all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields,” as early as May. Passan followed that up with a report Monday that the 2020 MLB season appears to be “Arizona or bust.”
And on Wednesday, infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci did an interview with Snapchat’s Peter Hamby, and said that he can see sports returning this summer if there are no fans in attendance and players stay in hotels, while being “very well surveilled.”
“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci told Snapchat’s Peter Hamby as part of a weeklong interview series. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”
So, the MLB players just play the games in empty Arizona stadiums, and return to their hotels to be isolated. A “bubble” life, for months.
Sure, this could technically work. You could place these players in stadiums, get the games played, and get the games on television networks. Rob Manfred and MLB owners would be cool with that, because money.
But the players aren’t robots; they’re human beings. They have feelings and go through psychological issues like the rest of us, believe it or not. They have families. They want to be able to go for walks, acquire their own food, and make their own decisions while not being “well surveilled” like they’re in a prison or boot camp.
The game can be as much of a mental grind as it is a physical grind. Playing in empty stadiums will already take away some of the adrenaline. And playing games daily while living these “well surveilled,” isolated lives for months? Away from their partners and children? This will eat away at many players, because, again- they’re human beings. Being in the right state mentally is *huge* to performance. That’s why more and more sports organizations are putting resources into sports psychology.
And two of baseball’s best players have already vocalized their concerns with the Arizona bubble idea.
On Wednesday, Mike Trout — the best baseball player on the planet — spoke with Mike Tirico on NBC Sports’ Lunch Talk Live, and said the Arizona idea has “a lot of red flags” and is “pretty crazy.”
“We can’t be sitting in a hotel room, just going from the field to the hotel room and not being able to do anything. I think that’s pretty crazy,” Trout said.
Trout added that his wife is in pregnant, and he isn’t going to miss the birth of their first child: “What am I gonna do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back? Because obviously I can’t miss that birth of our first child.”
.@miketrout wants MLB to come back soon as possible, but brings up a number of issues that would have to be worked out logistically before baseball returns in any fashion. #LunchTalkNBCSN pic.twitter.com/TdPfIVI8Jp
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) April 15, 2020
“I obviously want to play as fast as we can. Get to a city, maybe Arizona; they’re throwing out Florida. Being quarantined in a city … it would be difficult for some guys. What are you gonna do with family members? My wife is pregnant. What am I gonna do when she goes into labor? Am I going to have to quarantine for two weeks after I come back? Because obviously I can’t miss that birth of our first child. There’s a lot of red flags, there’s a lot of questions. Obviously, we would have to agree on it as players. But I think the mentality is we want to get back as soon as we can, but obviously it’s gotta be realistic. We can’t be sitting in a hotel room, just going from the field to the hotel room and not being able to do anything. I think that’s pretty crazy.”
Trout’s comments come after three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw expressed similar concerns with the idea on Monday.
“I’m not going to be away from my family and not see them for four and a half months… I’m just not gonna do it,” Kershaw said in an interview with SportsNet LA.
“I will say that, that situation that was played out… I don’t know who wrote the article or where it came from… I just don’t see that happening. I’m not going to be away from my family and not see them for four and a half months. Like, I just talked about how much Cooper [his three-month-old son] changes so much in one week, so to miss four months of his life right now, I’m just not gonna do it. There’s a lot of other things that are just wrong with that proposal. But it’s not to say that we can’t go somewhere with it. It’s just that, there are a lot of things we’re gonna have to figure out before I go quarantine myself with my team for four months.”
So, when two of the sport’s biggest stars are pointing to clear “red flags” already and are clearly not onboard with the idea, that’s a huge problem (All-Star catcher James McCann also recently spoke of the concerns with baseball returning too soon).
We all want baseball back as soon as possible, but MLB needs to make sure that the safety and *well-being* (something not being talked about nearly enough) of everyone involved is in fine shape before proceeding with games anywhere.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]