Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
For about three weeks, a small group of industry insiders have been working 18-hour days assembling a plan for MLB to play its season in Arizona, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the process.
During that process, high-ranking members of the medical community have signed on to the details of a plan that would be heavy on social distancing, per those sources.
This approval comes from government health agencies, not the wing of the Donald Trump administration that had proven eager to open the economy before the COVID-19 pandemic risk subsides. In other words, the officials open to this are the ones who have generally proven themselves more aligned with the scientific community.
Sources add that the idea was first discussed by the league and the Players' Association on Monday. Because of that, the reaction of baseball officials on Tuesday, following reports by ESPN and the Associated Press, was to downplay the possibility. MLB even issued a statement to that effect.
But even as the league accurately casts the Arizona proposal as just one of many contingencies being discussed, several prominent officials remain cautiously optimistic that the plan can continue to develop.
"It's either this or nothing," said one industry source with direct knowledge of the Arizona plan. As reported by ESPN, the plan would require players to self-isolate in Arizona for months, and practice social distancing even during games. It remains unclear if their families would be allowed to join.
Countless details need to be worked out. Owners would need to agree to a temporary revenue-sharing model that would account for lost ballpark revenue. Logistics of staffing hotels would be daunting. And what about older coaches or players with pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus?
But some in the industry believe that their options are daunting and impossible. There is very little optimism that teams will be able to travel the country this year, as coronavirus hotspots move around.
There is also the matter of player buy-in. On Tuesday, players reached out to their agents and union, seeking information. As can be expected among any large group of individuals, reactions varied.
"The idea of being away from my family for four or five months is not appealing," said one All-Star pitcher.
Several players echoed that, and also expressed safety concerns. But others made an economic argument.
"Money talks !!!" one veteran player texted. "This is most of [our] dream: Play baseball, cash checks, and be locked in our hotel room playing video games and ordering Postmates."
Humor aside, players are naturally incentivized to collect a salary this year. From those who stand to lose tens of millions of dollars to those who make the minimum, everyone would rather be paid. Some are willing to be away from home to collect that paycheck, while others are not.
This is one of many hurdles still to clear. Answers will not come in a matter of days. But it's clear that the proposal floated was more than just a passing idea, but one that had already withstood weeks of legwork and scrutiny.