Like most of the country, Major League Baseball is on hold during the coronavirus pandemic. We won't be seeing baseball anytime soon, but the league is constantly discussing possible options for a 2020 season. Commissioner Rob Manfred said the public health situation needs to improve before baseball returns and expressed his desire for the sport to be "a milestone on the return to normalcy" in an interview with Fox Business on Tuesday.
Manfred touched on two major issues facing the league: When it could possibly start any kind of baseball activity again and the possibility of playing all games in Arizona, at least to start the season. Here are his thoughts on both subjects.
On bringing baseball back:
"The only real decision that we have made, the only real plan that we have is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation has improved to the point that we're comfortable, that we can play games in a manner that's safe for our players, our employees, our fans, and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely. So, right now, it's largely a waiting game. During that period, as you might expect, any business will be engaged in contingency planning. We thought about how we might be able to return in various scenarios, but again, the key is the improvement in the public health situation."
There won't be spring training until we know that either Arizona or Florida is "open" for gatherings of upward of 100 people. We've heard in the past that the league needs close to four weeks of a "spring" training before looking to start the regular season.
On the possible plan to have every team in Arizona:
"We have a variety of contingency plans that we have talked about and worked on. Plans may be too strong of a word. Ideas may be a better word. All of them are designed to address limitations that may exist when businesses restart. Traveling limitations. Limitations on mass gatherings that may still exist. We thought about ways to try to make baseball available to all the fans across the United States in the face of those restrictions. From our perspective, we don't have a plan, we have lots of ideas. What ideas come to fruition depends on what the restrictions are, what the public health situation is, but we are intent on the idea of making baseball a part of the economic recovery and sort of a milestone on the return to normalcy."
Good on Manfred for realizing that it's more ideas than plans. Looking forward, it's the great unknown. This is an unprecedented time, so forming any immediate plan would be a fool's errand. It's a total waiting game. The league and the players haven't had any talks on planning since last week, according to The Athletic. This isn't because the two sides have issues with each other, it's just that there really isn't anything more to discuss at this time.
And so we wait for input from the doctors and scientists while taking cues from local governments. Once the league believes that it's safe for players and staff members to all be together for what would serve as a four-week spring training period, that's when we'll start to get a picture of what this season might look like -- if we have one.