Major League Baseball has provided the MLBPA with a 67-page document with proposed protocols for returning to play, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich. The document covers testing, gameplay conditions, spring training rules, intake processes, and more, an outline of which is laid out by Rosenthal and Drellich in their piece.
The “operations manual” is an important step in launching a 2020 baseball season. Obviously, the Players’ Union still must approve, the logistics for medical and auxiliary staff must be handled, facilities must be prepared, and there remains any number of blockades that might derail a return to play. Still, it appears as if Major League Baseball has done the legwork to answer many of the operational questions facing the league’s return to action.
A central topic covered in these pages appears to be continued social distancing for players. It certainly makes for an interesting “team” experience, with communal dining and any socializing beyond family members discouraged (but not, it seems, disallowed). Masks may be utilized everywhere except on the field, and players will do their best to maintain 6 feet of distance even in the dugouts, which the article explains, could extend into the stands, should the extra space be necessary. Players have begun to display their personalities with expressive shows of emotion and team celebrations more and more so in recent years (“let the kids play”), and it will certainly be interesting to see how players can continue to be themselves and form team bonds/personalities in such a restrictive social environment.
The most pertinent issues here relate to player testing, of which many protocols have been laid out, including the process for bringing players into spring training, traveling with the team, and what happens if a player does test positive for COVID-19. The league has also outlined ways to limit potential exposure and spread. The minutiae are also attended to here, with items like “Communal water and sports drink coolers/jugs are prohibited” and “Dugout phones will be disinfected after each use”. Spring Training facilities, meanwhile, will limit teams to 50 players, per Rosenthal and Drellich. It’s important to remember, too, that there is sure to be much more detail in the full document. Presumably, all the pertinent details will be released to the public once an official agreement has been reached between the league and players.
All in all, there’s a great deal of coverage here and it’s well worth reading Rosenthall and Drellich’s piece in full. As we continue to ponder the possibility of if baseball can resume in 2020, this document attempts to cover much of the territory for how play might resume. The next step will be seeing how the Players’ Union reacts to it.