Jeff Passan of ESPN reported last night that Major League Baseball will submit a return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players Association within a week. He adds that teams have begun to encourage players to prepare for a new spring training that could begin in mid-June and a season that could start in early July.
This is in keeping with widespread rumors that MLB is, in fact, focusing on July as a restart date. Yesterday we discussed how that schedule seems to have been arrived at and what it truly means to say that baseball will start in early July. On Tuesday we discussed the massive public health hurdles which remain in the United States to a responsible resumption of public life, baseball included.
Passan details these hurdles, as well as the inside-baseball logistical hurdles that remain. For example, what will baseball do if a player gets sick after play resumes? What will happen if a player, fearful for his health or the health of his family, refuses to play? In light of all of that, resumption will require some complicated negotiations and player sign-off. And it’s not at all clear that they will get sign-off from every player.
“I’m a husband, I’m a father. There are many guys in the league with underlying conditions. With preexisting conditions, like diabetes and heart arrhythmias. You look at our coaching staffs, there’s tons of guys over 65. Umpires, there’s a lot of guys over 65. When you’re talking about the risk factors here, there are going to be some guys who sincerely have to weigh the risks of what it’s going to take to come back versus staying at home.
“We’re in a situation right now where you can’t make this mandatory,” he said. “You can’t tell a guy you have to come play or else your roster spot is not going to be here when you come back. You can’t tell a guy to risk his life and the life of his family and the lives of anyone he chooses to be around to come play this game. There’s probably going to have to be some waivers signed and whatever else you need to have done to make guys feel comfortable coming back. Then, MLB and the teams are going to have to do everything in their power so that we go about this in the best way possible and don’t just start playing games, but really set an example of how to do this, how to do it well and how to do it safely.”
I’m not sure if McHugh represents the mainstream view of players. Actually, I’d guess that he does not and that most players simply want to get back to playing baseball and, like much of the country, are suffering from shutdown fatigue, even if there are a ton of reasons to be extraordinarily wary of simply reopening the country at this juncture.
Still, I doubt McHugh is alone in his sentiment. And there is no doubt that much more that needs to be done to bring back baseball than to simply declare a start date and to shout, “Play Ball!”