On the heels of an Associated Press report that Major League Baseball and the players association is discussing a plan to hold the entire MLB season in Arizona amid the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN’s Jeff Passan published a bombshell report with a number of additional details on Monday evening.
The most significant of which centered around May as the target month for the resumption of the MLB season, which was scheduled to begin two weeks ago but has remained suspended indefinitely as the league scrambles to come up with a solution. A May start would be contingent on a number of uncertain factors, including the ability to play the entire season within the state of Arizona, and getting players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel to agree to live in relative isolation during that time, only leaving their hotels to go to and from the stadiums.
The plan reportedly has the support of a high-ranking public health official, and the Centers of Disease Control have been supportive of a plan that adheres to social distancing and isolation.
A huge sticking point that could affect the start of the season, and make a June target more likely, is there would need to be a significant increase in available coronavirus tests with a quick turnaround time. This is expected to happen in early May. In addition to that, the plan also faces the massive logistical issue of getting players and staff to agree to essentially separate from their families for what could be as long as 4 and 1/2 months.
Officials have told Passan that if a player were to become infected following the resumption of the season, it would not necessarily result in a shut down. In fact, rosters could be significantly expanded according to Passan to account for such concerns.
Setting all the monetary issues aside for both players and organizations, Passan listed the following ideas that are also on the table:
• Implementing an electronic strike zone to allow the plate umpire to maintain sufficient distance from the catcher and batter
• No mound visits from the catcher or pitching coach
• Seven-inning doubleheaders, which with an earlier-than-expected start date could allow baseball to come closer to a full 162-game season
• Regular use of on-field microphones by players, as an added bonus for TV viewers
• Sitting in the empty stands 6 feet apart — the recommended social-distancing space — instead of in a dugout
It is believed that if the plan is not agreed upon, the odds of the 2020 MLB season to resume will be thrown into even further doubt.