Positive news emerged Monday as major sports leagues have begun preliminary discussions on returning. The PGA, UFC, NBA, and MLB have all began to set tentative dates and locations for the return of live sporting events following the COVID-19 pandemic. For Major League Baseball, their proposed setup for the 2020 season appears extreme and unfair.
The proposed setup would include all MLB games to be played in Arizona, in empty spring training ballparks. Social distancing guidelines would be implemented in the dugout and on the field with the possible use of an electronic strike zone. Rosters would be expanded, and there would be more doubleheaders that feature seven-inning games. For as intriguing as the proposed plan is, there are drawbacks for players, fans, and stadium workers who rely on an income.
For players, a positive is that they would be compensated for the year, but the negatives could outweigh that. First, the heat of Arizona during the summertime may be a health risk and will most certainly influence play. The average summertime heat in Arizona is in the 100s. A good portion of MLB players are not used to playing in that type of heat daily. Heat exhaustion and dehydration could have a significant effect on the outcome of the season.
From a mental side, players may be affected by homesickness by not seeing their families or missing the city that they are used to playing in. Some players may respond negatively to playing in an empty ballpark while others may no find joy at all, not playing in front of a crowd.
For fans, seeing live baseball on tv again will be fun, but the novelty of the return of live baseball may dwindle after a few weeks. Rating will be at an all-time high for the first few weeks of games, but playing in repetitive spring training ballparks will grow boring for fans after a while. Many could protest wanting to see their favorite team in person at the ballpark they are accustomed to visiting every season.
The goal of live sports returning is meant to be a symbol of the return to normalcy, but games in empty ballparks are just the opposite. If MLB were to play the entire season in empty stadiums with weird rules, it would resonate with the fans that the promised return to normal has not taken place yet. Baseball has always prided itself on being there for its fans during tough times, and to play without the fans would send an odd message.
Major League Baseball also has a responsibility and the ability to help rebuild the American economy. There are so many people employed every year by teams, including concession workers, vendors, security personnel, and countless others that make an income due to games every day. Without fans, these employees do not have jobs and would not receive any income. Furthermore, Teams returning to their cities would help their city’s economies. Bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and grocery stores would see a spike in sales with their teams playing at home instead of at a neutral site on the other side of the country.
It is a commendable gesture for what MLB is trying to do, but it simply sends the wrong message. Baseball isn’t baseball without the fans in attendance. The move would allow MLB owners and players to still make a profit and salary in 2020, but it would leave out everyone else. Millions of America turn to the game for either joy or an income during the summer. If MLB games cannot return with fans in attendance, it shouldn’t return at all.