This is a time of year typically spent with family. Many of us are celebrating Easter today. Many others have been celebrating Passover since Thursday. Whether it be a big Easter dinner or a Seder, or for any other holiday or occasion for that matter, we like to come together as family. Family is important.
That’s one of the many reasons that the various contingency plans being floated by MLB to resume the season in some capacity this year are bothering me. Whether it be the total lockdown in Arizona or playing out the season by continuing the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, resumption of play would hinge on the players, coaches and all imaginable support staff would need to be stringently monitored and quarantined. There would need to be regular testing, daily (if not more often) temperature-taking, constant disinfection of all surfaces, and social distancing at all possible times. The Arizona plan outright calls for players to be separated from their families.
That’s no way to live. The players would be treated like livestock or robots, not like people. It’s putting profit before common sense. There would need to be a small army of supporting workers (drivers, trainers, doctors, cooks, nutritionists, etc.) who would deserve the exact same level of care. Those workers would deserve a level of pay that would be appropriate for putting their lives in harm’s way.
Stephanie Apstein of Sports Illustrated laid out all the problems better than I ever could. There are too many hurdles, too many loose ends, too many little cruelties.
We keep hearing of baseball as a potential great healing factor. We keep being reminded of how Franklin Roosevelt made sure that baseball continued on through World War II as a way to enrich the lives of the people who were supporting the war effort at home. Surely there could be a way for baseball and all the other sports to take on that same healing role, no?
This isn’t a war. It’s a pandemic. Its battles are being fought not with guns and bombs, but with ventilators and test kits. The people on the front lines have far too little ammunition. Though we have something of an idea of the scope of the pandemic within America’s borders, we cannot know for sure just how bad things are without widespread testing. We can’t possibly expect that a large stockpile of test kits be set aside for the purpose of letting a private non-essential business operate.
Moreover, having the league operate feels morally ambiguous at best. Yes, play would resume when the CDC gives MLB the green light. That would theoretically come at a time when the spread of the virus has been contained and minimized. But just because the curve on the graph has trended downward for a long enough period doesn’t mean that there still won’t be healing to be done.
Yes, having baseball on the television again would be a welcome relief. But spending money and valuable resources on that and not on helping families in need would be misguided and greedy. Millions of Americans are out of work, and that number will only go up. So too will the number of families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.
Creating a sanitary and safe environment to play the game before the full scale implementation of a vaccine is going to be incredibly expensive. Baseball is a business and America is a capitalist society, but surely we can all agree that our desire to see our favorite players in action again comes second to looking out for each other and giving aid to those who have seen their very existences torn asunder.
Many of the players themselves have expressed distaste for these proposals. Nationals closer Sean Doolittle and his wife Erieann Dolan gave some wonderfully insightful thoughts on the matter to The Daily Beast. Phillies starter Zack Wheeler said he would refuse to miss the birth of his first child in three months’ time.
We probably won’t have a vaccine until 12-18 months from now. Just one positive test, whether it be a player, coach, trainer or hotel worker who catches the virus, would render the entire quarantine league moot.
The idea of trying to play baseball under these circumstances, even in an all-too distant future where even just a trickle of normalcy has returned to our lives, makes my skin crawl. People are dying. People are having their livelihoods wiped away. Families are grieving. Risking more workers to exposure and using up resources just for the sake of sports feels pointless.
The moment we are all living in right now is bigger than all of us, bigger than any sport or any league. We have a duty as a people to treat it that way. It’s perfectly normal to seek a distraction, to want to feel as if the world isn’t on fire. And it’s in fact healthy to do so. You shouldn’t be constantly subjecting yourself to the horrors of our reality if you can avoid doing so.
That doesn’t mean that it would be okay for baseball to try to bring itself back this way. Our desire to watch sports doesn’t mean a damn thing right now. What matters is safety and health. What matters is getting help to those who need it.
Be well. Be safe. Give your families your love. Baseball can wait until a vaccine is ready.