MLB's plan to have 30 teams in Arizona might be most viable path to 2020 season, report says

Like so many other sports, baseball is currently on pause because of the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic. MLB and the players association (MLBPA) are determined to have a 2020 season of some kind, and it's very much in their financial interests to have as much of a season as possible. That said, the days continue to tick by, and their options are being whittled down. 

As we head toward the middle of April -- Opening Day was originally scheduled for March 26 -- it may be that the much-discussed "Arizona plan" is MLB's surest path forward. By way of reminder, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press originally reported that MLB and the MLBPA were considering beginning the regular season in Arizona and playing all games in the Phoenix area without fans in attendance. Doing so would allow them to play in Chase Field, home ballpark of the Diamondbacks, and in the many nearby spring training complexes. 

MLB is reportedly considering getting this underway as early as late May. Presumably, stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders across much of the nation will still be in place by then, but the plan is to work around this by sequestering players, team personnel, and umpires in local hotels and then doing their best to maintain social distancing during the games themselves (e.g., possibly an automated strike zone and players in the stands rather than cramped together in dugouts). 

Suffice it to say, the logistical challenges of such an undertaking are immense. So, too, however, are the incentives to play some kind of season in 2020. 

Soon after Blum's report dropped, MLB released a statement on the matter: 

MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so. While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan. While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association. The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.

Now ESPN's Jeff Passan, who did some early reporting on the Arizona plan, suggests those "numerous contingency plans" may be not so numerous anymore. Here are his relevant comments: 

The key takeaways: 

  • The Arizona plan appears to be the most viable of those discussed internally.
  • The hope is that this would be a temporary state of affairs and that as we get deeper into the summer at least some teams would be able to transition to playing games in their home cities. 

It goes without saying that the trajectory of the pandemic -- nationally but especially in Arizona -- will determine the timeline. Getting underway in late May feels a bit unrealistic, but this is a very fluid situation and projecting even two weeks out seems like a fool's errand. That said, it seems a consensus is emerging around the Arizona idea, and if that's the case then MLB and MLBPA energies can be devoted to formally approving it and addressing the many hurdles that stand in the way. 

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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