Under the proposal, the Giants could be playing here at Oracle Park, but of course without fans in the stands.
Dr. Anthony Fauci made a pretty prescient-looking prediction a month ago when Major League Baseball was making rumblings about starting the baseball season amidst our shelter-in-place purgatory. “If you could get on television, Major League Baseball, to start July 4,” he told Vanity Fair in an April 15 piece, when MLB was not commenting on a timeline. “Let’s say, nobody comes to the stadium. You just, you do it.” His advice seems to have found its way into today's leaked announcement in a KPIX/AP report that MLB owners approved a plan for a 2020 season, starting July 4th weekend, and without fans in attendance. (Fans could possibly return later in the season, with severe distancing measures in place.)
BREAKING: Major League Baseball owners OK a proposal that could lead to the coronavirus-delayed season starting around the Fourth of July weekend in ballparks without fans.— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) May 11, 2020
ESPN very frankly reports that “money is at the heart of the return,” as owners and players would have to agree on a new revenue split considering that a loss of ticket sales, concessions, and parking will mean everyone’s making substantially less per game.
We’ll let them sort out those details. But here’s a bullet-point look at the other changes to what would be an extremely unusual baseball season that would be an 82-game regular season and would be played, at least at first, in empty parks:
- Teams could play in their home parks (if allowed in those communities), so the Arizona/Florida “bubble plans” appear scrapped
- 14 teams make the playoffs instead of just 10
- Spring Training starts in June, but with no exhibition games before Opening Day
- Teams only play divisional opponents, and their respective same region for inter-league play
- National League will get a Designated Hitter
Bear with me, but it feels like we've zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. Here are some things I'll be looking for in the proposal...— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
But the plan may not be a hit with the players, who also will have to approve it. Former A’s pitcher Sean Doolittle weighs in with a deeply thoughtful 16-tweet thread decrying the lack of safety precautions described in the plan. Yes, the account calls itself “Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle” and depicts him with a lightsaber and a Baby Yoda, but it’s him, he’s still a Bay Area kind of guy. It’s a great thread and he’s still going, and contains the gem “Research has shown Covid-19 may cause issues with male hormone ratios — even in younger men, which could lead to fertility complications. Not ideal. Extremely suboptimal. Zero stars.”
We do hope they figure out adequate safety protocols, but of course our thoughts immediately leap to what does this mean for the Giants??? The DH is the big change, and probably a great fit for our returning hero Hunter Pence, Buster Posey on his days off catching, or Pablo Sandoval if he makes the roster. Most of their games would be division-only contests against the Dodgers, Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Giants will not be playing inter-league games against the AL Central teams as scheduled, but instead against the AL West — which includes the A’s, and the infamous cheaters the Houston Astros. Beanball, baby! And of course they have a better chance of making the playoffs, as each league gets two more wild cards. In an even-numbered year, anything can happen with this team.
Hopefully these concerns will be addressed in MLB's proposal, first and foremost: 1) what's the plan to ethically acquire enough tests? 2) what's the protocol if a player, staff member, or worker contracts the virus? We want to play. And we want everyone to stay safe.— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Baseball could be the first major sport back (sorry NASCAR and UFC), which seems glorious, but could be a disaster. The modified travel schedule still involves a lot of travel, so that expands the risk vector. Teams are kept within their regional divisions, but what if one division has an outbreak and others do not? Or what if the whole sport has an outbreak? The nuclear possibility, of course, is players dying during the season. Every sport will have to entertain these scenarios, but MLB seems set on being the leadoff hitter for the return of live sports.
Related: MLB Mulls Bringing Back Baseball, And What That Might Look Like [SFist]