It is not known when the 2020 MLB season will start due to. While it may be that no 2020 season will be played, the hope remains that some sort of abridged campaign will be possible once we get past the peak of the virus in the United States and Canada.
It’s a fluid situation, and as such, the MLB and the Players Union (MLBPA) remain fluid in their discussions. According to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, an idea that has emerged in recent discussions is to play all games in Arizona – the Phoenix area in particular – at least for the start of the season. Blum writes, “The ideas are still at an early stage, and the Arizona option would have many hurdles to overcome,” said those familiar with the discussions.
In addition to having a number of major league spring training facilities in the area, Phoenix also has Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. There are therefore a multitude of usable facilities, all mainly close to each other. Several teams also have spring training in Florida, but the complexes are much more dispersed than in Arizona.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reports several additional details. In particular, sources tell Passan that the season could start as early as May – but with a perhaps more convenient June return date – and confirms that all of the games would take place in the Phoenix area. More from Passan:
Players, coaches and other essential staff would be held in local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said. Federal officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health supported a plan that would respect strict isolation, promote social distancing, and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return.
According to Passan, the use of an electronic hitting zone can also be considered so that the plate umpire can maintain a semblance of “social distancing”. Additionally, players could be asked to sit separately from each other in the stands rather than being confined together in canoes. Passan’s story has many more convincing details about the potential plane, so give it a full read.
Among the states, Arizona, as of this writing, has the 22nd most confirmed case of COVID-19, which means that it is not currently a “hot spot.” This status could of course change, but if it stays at the lower end of the spectrum, this idea could become more viable. In any event, the MLB and the MLBPA must first agree on such a framework, then determine whether it is feasible, while having events and deadlines dictated by trends in the pandemic. Suffice it to say that a lot has to happen before this plan or any other plan can be implemented.
Although the MLB and the MLBA, according to their agreement, have a declared preference for playing games in front of fans and only after public health officials have approved such gatherings, these prerequisites may not allow a season of any length occurs. This is why the two sides also agreed that playing games on neutral sites in front of no fan is a possibility, and it would be necessary to carry out the “Arizona plan”.
Players and owners obviously have strong financial incentives to play as many seasons as possible – even if it means no door receipts – which explains the opening to unconventional arrangements. Playing games for all teams in Arizona, at least for the first part of the calendar, is certainly unconventional.