Rob Manfred has abandoned reason for madness.
For the last few days Major League Baseball has been floating a plan to start baseball next month. At first the plan was for all thirty teams to play in Arizona, making use of spring training facilities, playing in front of empty stadiums. That plan has morphed — now the idea is to turn the spring training “leagues” into actual leagues, with actual divisions, in Florida and Arizona, collapsing the American and National Leagues this season, still playing in empty spring training venues. The idea is that if players, coaches, team management, support staff, hotel staff, etc., are placed in a hermetically sealed bubble, away from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, then the season can be played, if not in full, then at least a good chuck of it, enough so that a meaningful postseason that crowns a World Series champion can be played.
There are ways of doing this plan that make sense that maintain continuity with baseball history. Instead of turning the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues into actual Leagues with three divisions, there are sufficient teams who do spring training in Arizona and Florida for there to be a National League Florida and a National League Arizona, an American League Florida and an American League Arizona. (One team will have to move from Arizona to Florida for vice versa, though, as you can’t do split squad games in the regular season.) Purely as a thought exercise, this plan can be rationalized and even made better than what’s proposed.
But this all rests on an assumption — that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection around this entire infrastructure that needs to exist for a season to be played can be reduced to zero. And if the past has taught us anything, it’s that SARS-CoV-2 is a tricky son of a bitch that finds a way with its incubation period up to two weeks and asymptomatic transmission. There will be too many points of contact with people outside of the baseball bubble for it to ever be truly hermetically sealed. A few days ago Craig Calcaterra explained how irresponsible and insane the original Arizona-only plan is, and nothing’s changed.
Look, I miss baseball, too. Max Scherzer said the other day on the Nationals Talk podcast that players are open to anything to get the season going. But I want it to be — and it needs to be — played safely, when baseball doesn’t endanger the fans, doesn’t endanger the coaches, doesn’t endanger the staffs, and doesn’t endanger the players. This Cactus/Grapefruit League plan doesn’t do any of that.
This is folly.