First off, sorry to anyone that expected this at the normal 7 AM drop time. (Given that readership of these is in the single digits, I don’t think anyone really was.) Forgot to prep this in advance, but gotta keep things going, right?
Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich (of course) got a copy of the medical proposal MLB had made to the players. Looking at it, it feels very, very thorough. Testing is going to be very regular for players, umpires, and staff. Interestingly (and understandably), the tests are going to be done via saliva. I mean, the idea of someone running a huge swab up my nose even once is enough to want me to never leave the house, so I can’t imagine how players would react to that happening multiple times a week. This study from Yale says those sort of tests are actually preferable and can be more sensitive, so it’s not like they are taking cut-rate tests it would seem.
It sounds like that when “spring training” starts, all the players are going to get tested, then have to quarantine until they get the results. Once cleared, they can start practicing and training. Temperature checks are going to happen regularly and it sounds like daily they’ll have those plus fill out a survey on whether they have any symptoms. Of course, that’s a bit of the honor system there, but I think everyone has a pretty vested interest in keeping baseball going. (Plus I would imagine that the players will get paid if they aren’t playing because of this, so there’s no financial motive to returning to the field.)
There isn’t any indication a positive test would shut things down, with the idea (I guess) that it probably hasn’t spread with all these precautions. The person that tested positive would have to quarantine and perhaps any that they can determine were in close contact with the person, but the rest of the team would be able to go on. I still feel like that’s a bit dicey given the major problem we have with the coronavirus–someone can have it for days before showing symptoms. Now maybe the regular testing will help keep that lead time down, but if there are three days between tests that’s two days a person could have it and spread it.
Only 50 players will be in “spring training” and not all of them will be around at the same time. So the ballpark will be busy all day for much of this time, as one group of players come in and then leaves, then another group does the same, so on and so on.
Once they get to games…..well, if you’ve got a subscription to The Athletic you can see the visual aids that were in the memo. Reserve players are going to be spaced over six feet in the dugout and the manager and coaching staff are going to be in their own little imaginary bubble as well. Players will have to have a towel down if they want to lean on a railing. When the team is hitting, many of the players and coaches will be sitting in the stands spaced out, though I assume that’s the reserves and not anyone that might be called to hit that inning. It wouldn’t do much for the pace of the game to have to wait for a guy to come down out of the stands to take his at-bat.
There’s so much more but all of this does pose a question that Alex Crisafulli has put out there on Chirps a number of times–if you have to go to these lengths to keep things safe, do you really need to be playing baseball? I get that we want it back, but is it worth it to the players and staff to have to jump through this many hoops to return? Obviously the players may think so and if they do, that’s what’s important.
A smaller example, perhaps, of what I’m thinking. Our church is only about 40 people and recent guidance from the governor and the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church indicates that we could reopen our doors next week. However, if we do there are a lot of things we’d have to adjust. Everyone would have to wear masks the whole time. No singing. Obviously no hugs or handshakes. People would have to be spaced out in the pews, escorted in and escorted out.
None of these things are bad or seem to be extreme, but we decided that right now the experience of worship is probably better having everyone home and watching the Facebook feed than going through all of that. It wouldn’t be church as we know it. Does that makes sense?
Now, obviously, we do have the ability to put a service on for people to watch. We don’t have that alternative with baseball, so that is an important difference. However, if it takes almost playing in a hazmat suit to have the game, is it really the right move? I imagine we’ll find out–I would expect the players to agree to all these and, if that happens, I think the money winds up working out one way or another. Hopefully if they take the field it doesn’t create more of a problem or people can stay isolated enough to avoid any outbreaks. We shall see!