Major League Baseball has floated an insane idea to return and play games by next month. The plan involves taking all 30 teams and putting them in Arizona. MLB already has a foothold in Arizona where half the teams have Spring Training homes. Florida is out for obvious reasons, so the league has set its sights on the Phoenix area. The plan sounds a lot like the ones being floated about the NBA and NFL, except somehow more ridiculous.
Here's why the proposal wouldn't work.
Arizona Has the 5th-Highest Population of Any U.S. City
Give the NBA and NFL credit for picking cruise ships and remote locations for their sports quarantine social experiments. MLB is suggesting they bring all 30 of their teams into the fifth-biggest city in America. More than 1.6 million people currently live in Phoenix.
Phoenix Hotels Are Used to MLB Players, Just Not All Of Them At Once
Baseball teams already have an expanded roster of 40 players. That alone would total 1,200 adult males the league would need to house, feed, and protect from the outside world. Throw in umpires, broadcasters, coaches, trainers, clubhouse attendants, and however many extra minor leaguers would be collecting pay checks to sit in a hotel for four months and you've got a lot of people to keep track of.
While Phoenix area hotels would probably welcome such steady business in unsure times, this means that hotel employees would also have to be quarantined. To make this really work - like in the NBA or NFL's cases - you need total coverage. No more half-measures. You're either in or you're out.
Social Distancing Means... Robot Umpires
According to Passan, players could sit in the empty stands instead of the dugouts to practice social distancing. There would also be no mound visits. And most importantly, MLB would use an electronic strike zone so that home plate umpires could remain at a safe distance. Aside from the pitch-by-pitch dance of replacing balls that catchers and umpires have been practicing for decades, this would also start the era of the robot umpire. Imagine players arguing balls and strikes with a computer in an empty stadium.
What About Testing?
The story completely glosses over the logistics of testing players. How are you going to justify testing all these guys on a regular basis while much of the nation is still untested? Not to mention the fact that the testing would have to be much faster and more accurate than the current tests available to the general public. Unless players, hotel staff, gameday employees, and anyone else involved are going to self-quarantine somewhere nearby and then travel alone to their new temporary homes there is no way to be confident that this will get past the second, truncated Spring Training.
Everyone Knows This Plan is Nuts
From the ESPN.com article:
"The logistics to pull off such a plan would be enormous and cumbersome on the league side and require the buy-in of players, who sources expect to be skeptical of separating from their families for an indefinite amount of time -- perhaps as long as 4½ months, if the inability to stem the coronavirus outbreak keeps teams from playing in their home stadiums in 2020."
That pretty much sums it all up without getting into much past the length of time people would be looking at being away from their homes and families. In a bubble - which this would literally have to take place in to work - these ideas seem crazy, but doable. In practice, in the real world, maybe we'll find out. It's just going to take a Herculean effort from MLB to even try.