Well, that didn’t take long.
About 12 hours after The Associated Press and ESPN posted stories detailing behind-the-scenes talks between Major League Baseball and the Players Association that floated a scenario of all 30 teams playing some form of a 2020 season at ballparks scattered across the Phoenix area — in front of no fans — MLB publicly distanced itself from the report.
“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so,” the league said in a statement released late Tuesday morning. “While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.
“While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association. The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the MLBPA had not released a statement regarding the reports, both of which cited MLB and union sources. But one player representative said that while the Players Association certainly is “listening” to all proposals, it was inaccurate to say MLBPA leadership had “embraced” the Arizona scenario, as was stated in the ESPN report.
Indications are Monday’s talk between the parties lasted in the range of 45 minutes, with little in the way of specifics discussed of the feasibility and practicality of what in some league circles already has been dubbed “The Arizona Plan.”
Part of the plan highlighted in the ESPN report included all 30 teams playing games at stadiums spread across the Phoenix area, where half of the big-league teams hold spring training. Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, also would be used, as could other fields that meet specifications in the area. But among the laundry list of obstacles not likely to be embraced by the MLBPA would be this element of the plan:
“Players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium,” sources said in the ESPN report. “Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Institutes of Health have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation, promote social distancing and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return.”
Being sequestered away from their families for the roughly four months it would take to play the season all but certainly would be a non-starter for the vast majority of players, the player rep said.
The positive of the leaked plan, which has very little chance of being implemented?
It shows both sides’ equal interest in playing a season of some kind. The desire stems from a variety of reasons, not the least of which is financial.
One way or another, if there is a season, it’s going to be unlike any other in MLB history, and everything is on the table to get there.
President Donald Trump held a conference call Saturday with commissioners from most major sports, including the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. Trump said he believes professional sports can resume “sooner rather than later."
“I’m still kind of optimistic and hoping for the best, and hoping we can get in as many games as possible,” Aaron Boone said on a conference call with Yankees beat reporters on March 26. “Obviously, that’s going to be altered by some degree. But again: This is something that’s bigger. So we’re not going to get to have our way or our number or the perfect outcome.”