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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Coronavirus: MLB debating playing games at spring training ballparks without fans, per report

Major League Baseball, like many sports leagues around the world, has been shut down indefinitely because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Spring training was canceled altogether and 2020 Opening Day has been pushed back to at least mid-May, and that remains subject to change as the situation develops.

MLB, along with the MLBPA, has discussed a variety of scenarios for the 2020 regular and postseason, including doubleheaders and extending the season into October. Now, MLB is considering playing in empty spring training ballparks in Florida and Arizona, with no fans and all while quarantining players. From Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:

“MLB is prioritizing public health as it examines all possibilities, sources say. The season, at least initially, could be played in Florida or more likely Arizona, where spring training parks are more concentrated. But the logistics of quarantining 30 teams in one area would be extremely complex and potentially controversial, sources say, requiring local, state and federal government cooperation and resources that might be necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic.”

As Rosenthal notes, the Premier League is reportedly is discussing quarantining its teams in parts of England and finishing its season with televised games from empty stadiums. The NBA is also discussing a similar concept with a truncated playoff tournament in Las Vegas.

 

QLE Posted: April 05, 2020 at 12:33 AM | 43 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: ballparks, behind closed doors, neutral site games, spring training

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   1. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: April 05, 2020 at 12:40 PM (#5936712)
uh how hot is it in Arizona in July?
   2. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 05, 2020 at 12:46 PM (#5936716)
Goodbye, Cactus League, Hello Great Lakes League.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 05, 2020 at 12:51 PM (#5936718)
uh how hot is it in Arizona in July?
I assume the starting date of the season will be at least partially dictated by how quickly they can build publicly-financed retractable roofs (rooves?) over all the Cactus League parks.
   4. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: April 05, 2020 at 01:51 PM (#5936752)
Imagining a world in which this actually happened, would the DBacks be allowed to play in their actual stadium?
   5. Walt Davis Posted: April 05, 2020 at 07:44 PM (#5936835)
As I mentioned in another thread, the Oz rugby league is also reportedly thnking about this.

I was thinking the other day about sports that have social distance built into the actual playing or could easily do it. Golf is an obvious one, at least as long as there are no caddies. Tennis (esp singles) doesn't involve anybody close to anybody else on any regular basis -- might have to do something to make sure each player is serving with their own balls. I think the wicket keeper in cricket is far enough away from the batter and the bowler from the umpire that shouldn't be an issue. Cycling road time trials with at most minor modifications; probably some track cycling. Bowling, I almost forgot bowling! Lots of field events, lots of track events as long as you're willing to go with 2-3 lanes between runners.

In baseball, home ump, catcher and batter in close proximity of course along with runners on base.
   6. Bowling Baseball Fan Posted: April 05, 2020 at 10:47 PM (#5936855)
Bowling is a flat no here. Almost every center nationwide is shut down. And the insane level of cleaning it is taking to even think of opening again is making our industry one of the last to possibly open up again. I've been closed for 3 weeks today. Fully expecting another 4-8.
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: April 05, 2020 at 10:56 PM (#5936857)
In baseball, home ump, catcher and batter in close proximity of course along with runners on base.

I mentioned in another thread that the annual BBTF softball game in Central Park needs precious little adjustment re COVID-19.

no ump, no catcher (just a guy on the batter's team who picks up the occasional wide, slow pitch), no holding on of runners, no first or third base coaches, no plays at the plate.

just set up 6 feet Xs for players on the batting team as they wait their turn, and we're good to go.

well, until the "10th inning" - which, for many of us, is the whole point of the afternoon in the first place.
   8. bobm Posted: April 06, 2020 at 10:24 AM (#5936936)
I mentioned in another thread that the annual BBTF softball game in Central Park needs precious little adjustment re COVID-19.

no ump, no catcher (just a guy on the batter's team who picks up the occasional wide, slow pitch), no holding on of runners, no first or third base coaches, no plays at the plate.

just set up 6 feet Xs for players on the batting team as they wait their turn, and we're good to go.


And no shifts on defense - need to keep that 6 ft social distancing intact!
   9. Howie Menckel Posted: April 06, 2020 at 10:42 AM (#5936946)
yeah, no shifts, either

:)
   10. bunyon Posted: April 06, 2020 at 11:26 AM (#5936959)
This almost certainly happens before a full return. However, as bowling baseball points out, there is a lot to the game outside the game. Groundskeppers, locker room guys, etc. Then you have the risk of injury. In a full schedule, how many times per game does a player need a trainer?

On the bright side, trips to the mound will be limited. On the down side, Yadier Molina and all his pitchers will be dead in a month.

Seriously, to make this work, you'd almost have to move a village - all the players and coaches, groundskeepers and umps, locker room guys and trainers, kitchen staff, etc. - into quarantine and simply accept that some of the people involved are going to get sick.

I mean, I'm not at risk and would like to see baseball. So I'm all for it.
   11. Welcome to Gator Hammock (CoB). Posted: April 06, 2020 at 12:47 PM (#5936990)
uh how hot is it in Arizona in July?


hot enough I once had to open a west facing motel room door in the afternoon ... with my shoe.
   12. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: April 06, 2020 at 05:35 PM (#5937103)
But the door handle had a dry heat.
   13. Sean Forman Posted: April 06, 2020 at 05:46 PM (#5937109)
Hot enough that people carry oven mitts to open their car doors.
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 06, 2020 at 05:53 PM (#5937113)
Hotter than yo mama.
   15. Howie Menckel Posted: April 06, 2020 at 07:07 PM (#5937122)
apparently Southerners have some colorful descriptions here, which make varying degrees of sense:

1. Hotter than a billy goat with a blow torch.

2. It’s so hot I saw a squirrel putting suntan oil on his nuts.

3. Hotter than Satan’s house-cat.

4. Hotter than two hamsters farting in a wool sock.

5. Hotter than Satan’s toenails.

6. Hotter than a four-peckered billy goat.

7. Hotter than a jalapeño’s armpit.

8. Hotter than hell’s pepper patch.

9. Hotter than Hell and half of Georgia.

10. Hotter than the Devil’s armpit.
   16. Snowboy Posted: April 06, 2020 at 07:31 PM (#5937127)
Hotter than a sweatband in a fireman's helmet.
[/Foghorn Leghorn]
   17. Russlan thinks deGrom is da bomb Posted: April 06, 2020 at 08:06 PM (#5937132)
Hmm..., I wonder how Ichiro would describe the heat.
   18. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 07, 2020 at 01:37 AM (#5937171)
This seems to be the latest version under consideration:
The plan, sources said, would dictate all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the greater Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks' Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields. Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation, and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said. Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Health have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation, promote social distancing and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return.

The May return date depends on a number of concerns being allayed, and some officials believe a June opening day could be more realistic, sources said. Most important would be a significant increase in available coronavirus tests with a quick turnaround time, which sources familiar with the plan believe will happen by early May and allow MLB's testing not to diminish access for the general public.
Mid-June to early-July seems more likely, but it would be great if it could be done [safely] sooner.
   19. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 07, 2020 at 10:17 AM (#5937229)
Hmm..., I wonder how Ichiro would describe the heat.
Any ####### way he wanted to, is how.
   20. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 07, 2020 at 10:19 AM (#5937230)
Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation, and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said.
Are the players going to go along with this? Color me skeptical.
   21. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: April 07, 2020 at 10:29 AM (#5937233)
I agree with Face.
   22. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: April 07, 2020 at 10:32 AM (#5937235)
I bet the player would preliminarily agree if it’s the difference between getting paid or not. But execution is another matter.
   23. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 07, 2020 at 10:34 AM (#5937238)
Yeah. I have this sinking feeling that our office is going to open up way before any sort of public gathering places do. At least now I can work from home - but I suspect that for quite a while my life will be having to go to the office but not being allowed to go anywhere else. That's going to be pure awful. I can't imagine the players voluntarily signing up for that.
   24. Mayor Blomberg Posted: April 07, 2020 at 12:11 PM (#5937273)
I assumethe only reason to do this is tv revenue, but doesn't that mean announcers and local tv crews have to be sent to AZ (although on-air people could work remotely) and also start games at 5 pm for east-coast audiences (no DST in the Arizone)?
   25. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 07, 2020 at 02:56 PM (#5937345)
MLB has issued a statement indicating that they are considering many options, but have yet to focus on one:
MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so. While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan. While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association. The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are 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.
Sounds like they’re still in the ‘kicking the tires’ phase, or very wary of appearing to get out ahead of what looks doable to the public.
   26. Howie Menckel Posted: April 07, 2020 at 03:13 PM (#5937347)
I'm about 10 days and 12 rounds into a very slow NL-only fantasy draft.

all of the Rockies hitters went as early as you'd expect for a Coors field season. suckers!

   27. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 07, 2020 at 03:42 PM (#5937358)
MLB has been actively considering
Of course.
   28. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: April 07, 2020 at 03:45 PM (#5937360)
We'll see how the public's sentiments about the pandemic and the quarantine evolve over the weeks to come, but there are a few things that (I think) are definitely the case, at least at the moment:

1) One should not underestimate how high a priority most professional athletes place on getting paid in 2020. Most pro athletes, especially in football, have a very short window during which they can make legit money. Most pro athletes are also young and in excellent physical condition, so they may be more willing to take on risk of contracting the virus in exchange for getting back to making money than most Americans would.

2) The problem is that the moment somebody within "the bubble" of athletes, coaches and others allowed to be part of this experiment contracts the virus, there will be strong public pressure to shut it all down. Point #1 and point #2 are sort of at odds with one another.

3) Doing anything like this is almost certainly much more complicated than it first appears. Just reading the full piece on ESPN, I was surprised at how much I had failed to take into account when I started reading the story. This is going to be very difficult to do in 2020.

4) Related to point #3, the businesses impacted by the virus (including the quarantine and the freezing of much of the US economy) who will be the most successful in the months to come will be those that can think fundamentally differently about what their product or service is, and how they will deliver it. Today, I made a swing of four retailers today, and did not get out of my car once to pick up the goods. In all four cases, I made the purchase online or over the phone, paid for it with a debit card, and then somebody came out to the car and put it in my trunk or back seat. (We also got two deliveries thus far today at my house.) At two of the four retail stops, I asked the owner, who personally came out to the curb, how they were doing, and they both said they expected customers to increasingly want curbside pickup whenever things get back to "normal". I didn't need to find parking, and it probably took an hour of errands and knocked it down to 20 minutes.

Baseball is going to have to think the same way, and based on this story, there is some evidence they are thinking this way. For at least the 2020 and 2021 seasons, most sports are going to have to think of themselves almost exclusively as a TV and online product - not an in-person experience. For baseball, that means a faster-paced, more interactive presentation. Automated strike zone, eliminated mound visits, a pitch clock on the screen (akin to the shot clock in the NBA, or the play clock in the NFL), even some rule change or incentive that would reward teams that are able to get outs with the fewest number of pitches per inning (as an aggressive way to counteract the record number of strikeouts per game).
   29. Mayor Blomberg Posted: April 07, 2020 at 03:56 PM (#5937366)
Interesting take Steve.
   30. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 07, 2020 at 04:13 PM (#5937372)
Baseball is going to have to think the same way,
Agreed. I want Mike Trout and Javy Baez to play in my back yard.
   31. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 07, 2020 at 04:23 PM (#5937378)
The problem is that the moment somebody within "the bubble" of athletes, coaches and others allowed to be part of this experiment contracts the virus, there will be strong public pressure to shut it all down.
Saw an article suggesting that MLB wouldn’t shut down that way, or even attempt to re-open under such circumstances. Reportedly, they are hoping/working on the assumption that a quick test will be widely available by May (or whenever they resume), allowing them to quickly identify anyone infected and then test those exposed, theoretically nipping any problem in the bud. Easier said than done, IMHO.
   32. Russlan thinks deGrom is da bomb Posted: April 07, 2020 at 04:34 PM (#5937386)
Any ####### way he wanted to, is how.

I get the joke that you are making but did you get mine?
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 07, 2020 at 04:58 PM (#5937390)
I get the joke that you are making but did you get mine?
I didn't remember that it was that specific expression, but yes.

Ichiro is awesome. I can't wait for his HOF induction speech.
   34. Commissioner Bud Black Beltre Hillman Fred Posted: April 07, 2020 at 08:14 PM (#5937454)
Bring back the neighborhood play!
   35. Ron J Posted: April 08, 2020 at 07:24 AM (#5937506)
#28 Athletes as a group are provably significantly less risk adverse than the general public.

I mean one of the documented side effects of EPO is death and if they couldn't detect it now it would still be used very widely in any sport prizing endurance.
   36. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 08, 2020 at 02:30 PM (#5937628)
Bottom line, this isn’t a great idea, but it may be the least bad alternative. I think it only works if it’s part of a phased opening, perhaps starting with a tight bubble limited to players and those absolutely necessary, expanding to include family members & significant others after ~ 2 weeks, and adding more locations as the country re-opens, while avoiding any remaining hotspots. I don’t know when you’d get fans back. Some wouldn’t want to take the risk, or attend under social distancing protocols, but once given the green light, people will come. Seems like we’re several weeks from having even a rough idea if this would work, but I suppose the planning needs to start now.
   37. . Posted: April 08, 2020 at 03:18 PM (#5937654)
Maybe I'm missing some logistical issue, or maybe I've missed it altogether, but I'm surprised the idea of de facto retrofitting the stadiums to keep people six feet plus apart hasn't been broached. I.e., open places like Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, but only sell one out of every three seats and close the other two. I'd certainly have no issue going to a game if I knew I wasn't going to get within ten feet of someone else.
   38. PreservedFish Posted: April 08, 2020 at 04:16 PM (#5937681)
You'd have to stagger entries and exits in a strange way. Even at 1/3 capacity, the gates and ramps are clogged before (and especially) after the game. Your ticket might say, "Please enter 45-60 minutes before the first pitch," and then the Diamondvision would have to tell everyone at the conclusion of the game to "please remain in your seats until your Row Letter has been called."

Of course you wouldn't need to separate family groups, and I think a computer could do a good job of spreading the seats out properly. I wonder how many they could fit in there while keeping 6-10 foot distances.
   39. Snowboy Posted: April 08, 2020 at 04:56 PM (#5937696)
Based on the games/highlights I've seen the last few years, new Yankee Stadium has already been implementing this policy. It's almost a Hallmark card moment if the number of fans in the picture outnumber the battery and ump when they show the centrefield cam shot.

Logistically: the number of parking spaces near a stadium probably varies by location (someone must have this in an index, anyone?) and some places like New York and Chicago rely much heavier on public transportation to get fans to the game, so this might require cities/municipalities retrofitting their buses, trams, and subways. (Less of an issue for Texas or Arizona, or the Los Angeles Anaheim Angels of Anaheim, in Anaheim, brought to you by Amazon, and the good folks at Chevrolet.)

Also how do you retrofit Fenway, and tell the yellow headphones guy that he is no longer welcome?

(Sorry. I engaged. But I like baseball, at least I kept it to mostly baseball related responses? I've been here a while (though I'm mostly a lurker) and although my avatar doesn't show it (that's not my fault, I've given money to this site) maybe the responses and refreshes will send us some ad money? Maybe?)
   40. Snowboy Posted: April 08, 2020 at 04:56 PM (#5937697)
PF: I like to go to a game early, watch BP if it's on, sometimes even go to the bleachers and try to pretend to shag a few. But there's always that moment (especially if it's a close game) when the final out is made and the entire congregation stands. That might also be the moment where Dr. Fauci says with a finger raised "...uh, no."
   41. PreservedFish Posted: April 08, 2020 at 05:21 PM (#5937708)
Snowboy, as long as they keep the beer sales up late, I'm cool with sitting in my seat for another 20 minutes. Could be a nice opportunity for them.
   42. PreservedFish Posted: April 08, 2020 at 05:23 PM (#5937709)
Better yet, you could pack the bleachers with COVID-positives.
   43. Howie Menckel Posted: April 08, 2020 at 05:32 PM (#5937711)
At two of the four retail stops, I asked the owner

I seriously hope you both had masks on.

Howie's Rule: I'll tip my cap, I'll, I'll smile - and if you play hand real well, I might even wink.

but the piehole remains closed.

of course, as of today here in NJ we have to wear mouth coverings over our faces to enter supermarkets and other such stores anyway.

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