In an op-ed published by the New York Times, super-agent Scott Boras has called for baseball to “return the players to spring training-style camps as soon as possible.” The idea would be for MLB to take steps now to lead into a season that would provide fans with a “sense of hope and normalcy.”
It’s obviously not a unique concept to suggest holding a 2020 campaign — or to launch a second Spring Training in advance thereof. All of the various coronavirus-altered scheduling proposals have included some concept of players ramping back up to prepare.
What’s notable about the proposal from the game’s most powerful player representative is that it is premised not on a specific plan for resuming play, but on launching the preparatory steps even without one. Perhaps concerned with the possibility of a rushed second spring, and/or sensing a chance to build some momentum, Boras proposes re-gathering the players and support personnel that were scattered by the mid-March suspension of pre-season activities.
“Even before we know when, where and how we will have an Opening Day, we should give players the chance to ramp up for Major League competition. Like many others, they are doing their best to make things work without access to the ballparks that are their ’offices.’ But the best basement batting cage or backyard mound can’t give world-class hitters and pitchers the game-speed preparation they need.”
Some might think this is putting the cart before the horse, particularly given the many concerns with ramping up economic and social activity at all at a point where infections are still on the rise.
But Boras does also suggest utilizing “staggered reporting dates” to ease the transition. And perhaps there’s an important underlying point here: by starting with team-by-team gathering for training, and then building up from there, MLB can iron out workable processes and accelerate as circumstances permit. It’s arguable that the alternative — at some point, declaring a target start date and then trying to ramp to prepare for it — is actually more fraught with risk and less likely to succeed.
Boras also notes that we can now learn from the experiences of Asian leagues. As we covered earlier today, Taiwan’s league is even nearing live fan attendance. Of course, even the preparatory stages that have led to a regular season in Taiwan and Korea only occurred after public disease transmission was brought under control.