As other major sports leagues consider the possibility of televising games played in front of empty stadiums, Major League Baseball would love to do the same. The reality of the situation is that even quarantining teams in Arizona or Florida don’t solve all the issues. Too many obstacles remain to make such an arrangement safe under the current conditions, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. With the amount of asymptomatic carriers unclear, there’s no way to guarantee the health and safety of those involved. There are simply too many moving pieces. Even the most bare bones operation for a single game would involve 52 players, plus coaches, umpires, television crews, hotel accommodations, food service workers, drivers, etc.
There would be financial hurdles as well, mostly in terms of allocating the television money. The fact is, a huge proportion of game day revenue comes from fans in the stadium. Without fan revenue, there would have to be a conversation between the league and players about the players taking reduced pay. Teams would not be able to pay players at their normal rates, and while the league and the players’ union have worked diligently at forming peaceful accords throughout this trying time, the amity alone does not smooth all the edges.
Besides, the revenue from TV contracts would not be able to cover the costs, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune. Acee notes that those teams with their own television networks might be able to make enough for the games to be worthwhile, but for those negotiating with local networks, there would likely be a further reduction in revenue. With the terms of original television contracts altered under the circumstances, the contracts themselves would likely require a renegotiation as well. There have been a few games without fans (or with few fans) aired over the years, and the end product is always a little bit eerie. It might be better than nothing under the circumstances, but where revenue is concerned, every adjustment has trickle down effects that must be negotiated throughout the invested parties.
And of course, there’s the final, most important obstacle, which I’ll relay directly from Rosenthal: “Diverting resources from health care would be another concern. Baseball would need to conduct wide-ranging testing for the virus, isolate anyone who gets sick and provide proper medical attention. Such an effort would require outside assistance, the kind of resources the league could not justify drawing away from the general population in the middle of a public health crisis.”