9:26am: MLB has issued a statement acknowledging that the league has “discussed the idea of staging games at one location” but emphasizing that it has “not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.” The announcement makes clear that the league is exploring many possibilities for responsibly holding a 2020 season and has continued to “interact regularly with governmental and public health officials” in support of that mission.
Ultimately, per the statement, MLB is “not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”
12:16am: Because of the coronavirus, we already know that at least part of the 2020 Major League Baseball Season – if it occurs – could take part in Arizona. Jeff Passan of ESPN sheds more light on what may be a strange baseball season, writing that all 30 major league teams might play spectator-less games “in the greater Phoenix area,” including the Diamondbacks’ home stadium (Chase Field) and 10 nearby spring training venues, if not other facilities. Agent Scott Boras said that Chase Field could host as many as three games a day, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports.
Should this plan come to fruition, it might allow the league to begin its season sometime in May. The players wouldn’t be thrilled with possibly having to spend months away from their families, Passan notes, though the fact that they’d be receiving a paycheck is enticing. Plus, high-ranking members of the Major League Baseball Players Association talked Saturday “with health officials who offered the plan as the clearest way for baseball to restart,” writes Passan, who adds that the union and the league started discussing the idea Monday. Their talks on the matter are likely to continue this week.
If a season does take place, it would likely require a two- to three-week spring training tuneup beforehand, per Passan. And if someone from one of the organizations happens to contract the coronavirus then or during the season, “officials do not believe that a positive alone would necessarily be cause to quarantine an entire team or shut down the season,” Passan writes. Rather, the possibility may lead to expanded rosters and more players receiving major league service time, which is appealing to the union.
So, in the event that the campaign gets underway in Arizona, what might it entail? Passan lays it out in his piece: Owing to social distancing, we could see an electronic strike zone and no mound visits from catchers and coaches. There’s also a chance of seven-inning doubleheaders to increase the number of games played. Nothing about this is ideal, but for the league and its fans, it could be better than no baseball at all.