The COVID-19 pandemic has led to sports being shut down, and we don’t when the major sports leagues will return.
For Major League Baseball, we’ve seen all sorts of ideas thrown around for a potential return. Like, a 100-game season beginning in July, which includes a neutral-site World Series at Dodger Stadium. A season beginning in May, with all 30 teams playing in Arizona. And on Friday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that MLB has discussed a realignment plan that would recreate the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues for an abbreviated MLB season in Arizona and Florida, featuring six new divisions. The ideas like this go on and on, and that will remain the case until an official decision is made on the 2020 MLB season.
MLB owners would of course be in favor of doing everything possible to get as many 2020 games in as possible, because of the financial implications. That’s a factor for players too (and especially upcoming free agents that would like to prove their worth), and keep in mind that the players are extremely confident people. That’s why they’re professional athletes; they don’t operate mentally the same way as your average person. They want to go out there and play ball.
But Chicago White Sox catcher James McCann offered a very reasonable take on the situation during a conference call with the media on Friday.
McCann — an AL All-Star in 2019 — said that MLB starting a season soon could “create a recipe for disaster.”
“If we rush things, we possibly create a recipe for disaster, whether that is with coming back too soon and people getting coronavirus, or you rush back things to where guys aren’t ready to play and you have injuries that last into following seasons,” McCann said.
Here are more of McCann’s comments, via NBC Sports Chicago:
“Everyone wants to get back as quickly as possible, but the biggest thing we’ve done well as a union and a league is step back and realize the current situation is greater than any one game of baseball,” White Sox catcher James McCann said during a Friday conference call. “You’re talking about life and death for thousands and thousands of people. And as much as we love the game and want to be on the field, there are priorities, and keeping people healthy and safe needs to be a priority.
“If we rush things, we possibly create a recipe for disaster, whether that is with coming back too soon and people getting coronavirus, or you rush back things to where guys aren’t ready to play and you have injuries that last into following seasons.
“So that’s the big thing, understanding the importance of the situation. At the end of the day, we have a platform with Major League Baseball and as Major League Baseball players. We need to be part of the solution, not the problem.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t control the virus, and we don’t control how that’s going to play out. … I’m definitely an advocate for making sure that not only are we as players and our families and coaching staff and everybody doing what’s responsible but also setting an example for the public that we are not rushing back to play a game just because we feel like we have to.”
There have been many meatbally comments from members of the sports world (particularly college football coaches: examples here and here) in recent days on the topic of the coronavirus, so it’s very refreshing to see comments like these from a professional athlete. McCann is spot-on about what the priorities need to be, and the risks of returning too soon.
And as McCann alludes to, it’s not just about COVID-19. The players need to get back into healthy baseball shape (especially pitchers), and it would be wise to have a ramp-up period of 2-4 weeks. Basically, a second spring training, after the original spring training has essentially turned into a waste with all of the time off.
We all want sports back as soon as possible. But hopefully MLB listens to medical experts and operates with the same caution McCann suggests, and doesn’t let a regular season start until it’s clearly a safe, healthy situation for everyone involved.