Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said publicly what league sources have been saying privately for more than a week: He is tentatively supportive of sports returning this season in an extremely controlled environment.
"There's a way of doing that," Fauci, one of the president's top advisors on the coronavirus, said on the Snapchat show Good Luck America.
The question was about MLB, college football, and the NFL, but Fauci's answer described the plan to play in Arizona that a small group of baseball officials have been working on for nearly a month.
"Nobody comes to the stadiums, Fauci said. "Put (athletes) in big hotels, wherever you want to play. Keep them very well-surveilled, but have them tested like every week and make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their families and just let them play the season out."
According to people with direct knowledge of the process, work on the Arizona contingency continues.
The process was complicated last week when it became public; the Players' Association in particular was unhappy about the timing of the ESPN and Associated Press stories about it. Some union officials remain undecided about the plan, and resentful of the notion that players have already approved.
MLB, too, was focused on downplaying the possibility, accurately framing it as one of many possible plans.
But it is some version of the Arizona plan that represents the best -- indeed, the only -- hope for baseball in 2020.
Details continue to emerge. According to one source, the league could begin in Arizona with players under quarantine, but remain nimble enough to travel to other areas deemed safe by health officials.
There are models that would allow for anywhere between approximately 80 and 120 regular season games. The proposal would involve an expanded playoff format.
On Monday, commissioner Rob Manfred downplayed any plans to return, rightly emphasizing safety over business.
"The only real decision that we have made, the only real plan that we have is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation has improved to the point that we're comfortable, that we can play games in a manner that's safe for our players, our employees, our fans, and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely," Manfred said.
Some proponents of the Arizona plan wish that the commissioner had been able to present it that way initially, instead of having to react to unexpected news stories.
But the desire for a safe and modified season is strong in every corner of the industry, and work toward that end continues undeterred, leaks notwithstanding.