In search of creative solutions to the myriad problems posed by the coronavirus pandemic, MLB and the MLB Players’ Association have held initial discussions regarding a plan that would center at least part of the 2020 season in Arizona. Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reported on the latest developments in the ever-evolving effort.
It’s an interesting concept, at least in theory, given the presence of so many high-quality baseball facilities in the greater Phoenix area. The entire Cactus League apparatus would be available in addition to the Diamondbacks’ home park of Chase Field.
Staging contests in one metro area would drastically limit the cost, time, and risk of plane travel — potentially facilitating a much fuller schedule (more packed and later into the year) than would otherwise be possible. Teams are accustomed to marshaling necessary logistical resources in this area. And concentrating medical and other resources in one area might make it possible to navigate the exceedingly tricky matters that are sure to arise.
Needless to say, this wouldn’t be baseball-as-usual. Agent Scott Boras notes that the league would have to essentially define a group of participants (players, coaches, umpires, trainers, etc.) who’d have “very limited access … to the outside world” and would be “constantly tested.” It seems clear that such an approach would feature no or limited spectators at the ballparks. Even if fans were ultimately allowed in, there’s obviously no way the gate would come anywhere close to its typical levels.
The aim in this effort, should it even be pursued, would be to get the game on television sets across the country. There may even be a built-in competitive advantage for baseball as against the other major sports, which are also staring at difficult challenges. It’s certainly easier to imagine baseball being played, with appropriate protection and monitoring, than other sports that involve much more regular and intense physical contact between participants.
Clearly, this idea is still in its infancy, faces numerous challenges of its own, and is only one of many possibilities. It may ultimately function as a bridge to a more-typical playing situation, should that become possible. Depending upon one’s perspective, this all-Arizona approach could be a sobering disappointment … or an optimistic indication that the league and players are working hard to ensure that some kind of campaign is possible.