Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on April 6 that Major League Baseball was focusing on a plan to start the 2020 regular season by isolating all 30 clubs in Arizona and playing games in the Phoenix area without fan attendance, abiding by social distancing protocols necessary to combat COVID-19.
CBS Sports’ R.J. Anderson reported an updated plan relayed by multiple anonymous league sources involving Arizona, Florida and Texas rather than just Arizona:
“Ballparks in St. Petersburg (Florida), Phoenix (Arizona), and Arlington (Texas) each have roofs, retractable or otherwise, that would safeguard against rainouts and other extreme weather, allowing for multiple games to be hosted at those sites per day. Theoretically, MLB could also ask teams stationed in Florida and Texas to drive three-plus hours to other MLB parks (Houston’s Minute Maid Park and Miami’s Marlins Park).
“It’s unclear if MLB would assign 10 teams to each metropolitan area, or if it would opt for an unbalanced approach that would see 12 teams in one area and eight in another.”
MLB released an official statement on April 7 denying the notion that any specific plan was in place:
MLB Communications @MLB_PR
Major League Baseball issued the following statement this morning: https://t.co/zyjrbGICVQ
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert, said last week that the only way sports can return to the United States any time soon is for games to be held in empty stadiums:
MLB announced the cancellation of spring training and delay of Opening Day on March 12:
Statement from Major League Baseball: https://t.co/0bWS5VTRPu
As for the plausibility of the new reported plan, Texas Governor Greg Abbott teased the return of NASCAR in the state earlier Monday:
Greg Abbott @GregAbbott_TX
Just spoke to @NASCAR leaders.
They’re working to return to Texas at Texas Motor Speedway very soon.
I hope to announce the exciting details in the near future.
To prevent spread of #COVID19 it will be without fans.
But they will put on a great show for TV.
Several players have voiced pessimism that any plan involving total isolation can work.
“In terms of Arizona, what’s a deal-breaker for players is that they say you have to be in isolation, without your family,” Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa told ESPN’s Marly Rivera on Monday. “That’s something that I think will never happen. No player wants to be without his family.”
That opinion was shared by the likes of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale in a story published by The Athletic’s Andy McCullough on April 7.
Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, however, were open to the idea.
The NBA, NHL and MLS also suspended operations on March 12. No American sports league has returned to action.