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The tremendous barriers to bringing back baseball

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We have talked a lot about the economic challenges of bringing baseball back in 2020. And we’ve talked some about the ways in which Major League Baseball and the MLBPA plan to address the health concerns. All of this talk has created the suggestion of inevitability of baseball’s return, but it’s worth remembering that none of these plans are set in stone yet. Indeed, some of the key components necessary for a 2020 baseball season have yet to be formally proposed or thoroughly discussed.

Into that vacuum comes a major article from, basically, ESPN’s entire team of baseball writers, who examine the challenges facing the league and its players as they try to work out a plan to get back on the field. It deals not just with the money or the COVID-19 tests but the hypotheticals and unknowns of it all.

The story pulls no punches:

What emerges is like nothing that has been attempted in the history of American sport, less a baseball season than a military-style operation in which any number of variables could derail the plan, or, worse, contribute to the spread of the deadly disease.

It’s a long story, but a worthy one that stands as, probably, the most comprehensive overview of these challenges yet published. One that, in some places, seems to suggest that Major League Baseball can pull this off:

Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale professor of health policy who has offered guidance to some sports leagues and teams, said he believes baseball’s plan should work. He noted that data suggest the prevalence of the virus among top-level athletes is likely to be extremely low, plus it will be easier to limit exposure without fans and other workers at the ballparks.

But it’s also one that, in other places, suggests that there are risks that even MLB’s plans as currently known — plans which have met with mostly favorable reviews — may not be sufficient to address:

Baseball is in a difficult position: Quarantining players who come in contact with infected individuals could force MLB to shut down entire teams.

Most health experts interviewed by ESPN said they believe MLB would be increasing the risk of an outbreak by not quarantining more extensively, if only for a few days.

“CDC guidelines are pretty clear that anybody who makes substantial contact with somebody who has the virus needs to be quarantined,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Health Institute, told ESPN. “I think baseball has to ask themselves on what basis are they going against the CDC guidelines. How confident are they gonna be that another player on another team didn’t have substantial contact with that player? It just strikes me as risky. My feeling is it just depends on how lucky you feel.” 

There is a lot to think about on this topic. This article is an excellent place to begin.

Seager homers, Dodgers edge Brewers 4-2 in wild-card opener

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Mookie Betts had two hits and an RBI, Corey Seager homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 in the opener of their NL wild-card series on Wednesday night.

The eight-time West champion Dodgers capitalized early in a bullpen game for the Brewers and can wrap up the best-of-three series on Thursday. Milwaukee – a playoff entrant despite a losing record – limped into the postseason as the No. 8 seed without its best starter and reliever, who are hurt.

The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead on a leadoff double by Betts and four walks by left-hander Brent Suter in the first, tying for the most walks by a pitcher in a single inning in postseason history. Betts scored when Will Smith drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded. Seager walked and scored on AJ Pollock‘s bases-loaded walk.

Suter needed 32 pitches to get out of the inning. The left-hander gave up three runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings. His five walks were a career high, and he didn’t record a strikeout.

Chris Taylor doubled leading off the second and scored on Betts’ double, making it 3-0. Max Muncy walked with two outs and Ryan Braun caught Smith’s drive to right at the wall to end the inning, potentially saving three runs.

Braun winced as he hit the wall with his right shoulder. He was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the fifth.

The Dodgers could have inflicted more damage but were just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings.

Milwaukee pitchers retired 10 straight Dodgers during one stretch.

Clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, Seager went deep to dead-center off Freddy Peralta, who gave up just two homers during the shortened 60-game season. The Dodgers led the majors with 118 homers.

Closer Kenley Jansen walked pinch-hitter Jace Peterson with two outs in the ninth. Christian Yelich came to the plate as the potential tying run, but he struck out swinging to end the game. Jansen earned the save.

The Brewers closed to 3-2 on Orlando Arcia‘s two-strike, two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. Betts made an over-the-shoulder catch to deny Avisail Garcia with a runner on for the second out of the inning.

Milwaukee had the potential tying run on in the seventh with Yelich’s two-out double in the left-field corner. Tyrone Taylor popped up to third to end the inning.

The Brewers also threatened in the sixth. Avisail Garcia singled to right and was safe at second on first baseman Muncy’s fielding error. Muncy turned and scrambled into short right, trying to pick up the ball with a swooping motion, but it booted off his glove and rolled away. Julio Urias retired the next two batters to end the inning.

Urias got the victory, allowing three hits in three innings and striking out five.

Garcia had three hits and Yelich had two to lead the Brewers.

Pitching with a blister on his right index finger, Walker Buehler allowed two runs and three hits in four innings for Los Angeles. He struck out eight and walked two.

Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes and reliever Devin Williams are missing this series with injuries that occurred in the last week of the season. Burnes has a strained left oblique and Williams has a sore right shoulder. Starter Brett Anderson also was left off the roster because of a blister issue.

WITHOUT WILLIAMS

Losing Williams is a big blow after he emerged as one of baseball’s top relievers this season and is a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. He is 4-1 with a 0.33 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 27 innings. “It’s really crushing, honestly,” said Williams, who felt tightness after last weekend’s outing. “If we make it to the next round, I should be back. With the progress we’ve made in just a few days, it’s been encouraging.”

UP NEXT

The Dodgers give the ball to left-hander Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.16 ERA) for Game 2 on Thursday. He’s 9-11 with a 4.43 ERA in the postseason and lost his lone start in last year’s NLDS. The Brewers start right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who was 3-5 with a 3.05 ERA during the shortened season. He came up big last weekend with 10 strikeouts over eight shutout innings in a must-win game that helped Milwaukee eke out the No. 8 seed.

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