Last week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a plan that would see baseball return in early July. This vision may be overambitious, as there are many hurdles in the way of a 2020 MLB season.
One of the biggest challenges will be deciding how much players will be paid. The players’ union and the MLB came to an agreement about two months ago that would have seen the players take a pay cut, but now the owners are demanding that the players take much less than initially agreed to.
To most people this does seem silly as it is millionaires fighting over money with billionaires, but this should not be disregarded. Like Blake Snell said on his Twitch channel, players would be risking their lives to play a game. Baseball players and other athletes are not essential workers, therefore they should not be put at risk if they do not want to.
The real issue at hand is that essential workers, like grocery store employees and nurses, are making too little to be working through Covid-19. In my opinion, essential workers should not be making anything less than $20/hour, and even that is still too low.
While Blake Snell and other players should not be making their full salary to play half a season of baseball, they should still make somewhere close to their normal salary with the inclusion of hazard pay. That is something that essential workers will hopefully receive once again, but also something that should not have been taken away from them in the first place.
Even without ticket revenue coming in, owners should still be able to pay their players 70% of their salaries with 50% of that being the result of only playing half a season and the extra 20% coming from a form of hazard pay. Owners still have their TV revenue coming in, and they could make more from TV deals considering networks will be looking to air baseball any time they can, as there will not be any other sports going on.
Paying the players will not be the biggest challenge, however. The tallest task will be keeping the players and other team workers healthy. There will likely be 100-150 team personnel at the stadium for each game, and even with social distancing, germs and bacteria will spread throughout the park.
Eventually a player or staff member will test positive for the Coronovirus, and that creates a major issue. The MLB has stated that it will take 24 hours for test results to come back meaning those players and staff members will have to quarantine while they wait for their results.
When one player tests positive, the entire team and staff will then have to take tests just to be safe. Even with social distancing, a positive player will come into contact with everyone on the team. They will walk by each other or touch the same equipment that an infected person had touched.
Going beyond that, Covid-19 symptoms can take a week or two to appear meaning opposing teams that played an infected squad and umpires that officiated those contests in the past week or so will have to take tests, which will then sideline them for a full day.
There will likely not be many off days on the schedule with how limited the travel will be meaning that a lot of games will either have to be rescheduled or forfeited due to an organization not having a full team with many of their players in quarantine.
Rudy Gobert testing positive for Covid-19 showed the ripple effect of a positive test. Teams that played the Utah Jazz in the past week of Gobert showing symptoms had to quarantine for 14 days. I don’t think MLB’s plan of letting a player back into action after two negative tests will be sufficient enough. A positive player will have to sit out two weeks, and that cannot happen in a sports league.
There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding Covid-19 and one of those question marks is if a person is more susceptible to contracting the disease a second time. It just does not seem right to march a player or staff member back into action after testing positive considering the lasting effects the virus may have on a person.
Travel will also be hard to implement considering teams will be playing in their home ballparks, so they will need to fly to get to road games. Teams will have at least 50+ players and personnel traveling with them, and it is impossible for 50+ people to social distance on one plane or one bus.
This means that it will take multiple planes and buses to transport a team from stadium to stadium, which puts more bus drivers and airline attendants at risk.
There will be a lot of consequences for those involved if the MLB does decide to return by the start of the summer. It just does not seem possible for baseball, or any sport in general, to return until a vaccine is properly vetted.