With the recent news that Major League Baseball has created a plan to execute a 60-game season in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, many players are likely facing the tough decision of whether to play. Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman shared that he is still undecided.
Zimmerman offered his thoughts to the Associated Press on the many complicating factors that contribute to whether he'll join his club in defending their 2019 World Series title, including his mother, who would be considered a high-risk individual.
I'm still deciding whether to play. When it comes down to it, it's a decision not just for me, but for my family as well. I have a 3-week-old baby. My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over.
There's a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer; it's everybody's individual choice. At the end of the day, does a player feel comfortable going to the field every day and -- in my case, more importantly -- feel comfortable coming home every day and feel like they're not putting anyone else in danger? … I don't want to be a pessimist about this. I hope that, whatever I decide, the season goes off well, nothing happens, nobody gets seriously sick. But there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of variables we're not going to be able to control. That's what we need to assess.
The Rockies and Phillies have already experienced COVID-19 outbreaks in their spring training facilities before MLB announced a temporary closure of all 30 clubs' facilities for a deep cleaning.
Zimmerman also brings up the dilemma that MLB players face in that the league has decided to go ahead with travel to other ballparks. Their plan differs from that of other major sports organizations, like the NBA and MLS, who have decided that their respective season resumptions would take place inside of a bubble. Here's what Zimmerman said:
But I'm thinking more about the health and safety perspective -- and the toughest part for us is going to be the travel aspect of it. That includes for "spring training," when people are going to be flying in from all across the country and from out of the country, as well. It'll be interesting to see just how that part of it works out, with so many people going from wherever they are and gathering together all of a sudden.
We haven't seen a schedule yet, but I'm going to assume 30 games are on the road. I don't know how long the trips are going to be, but it's a significant amount of travel and staying in hotels and going places that are outside of where we've been allowed to go the last few months.
Once games begin in the NBA and NHL, they're not going to travel from city to city. Once they're in their places, they're there. And I'll tell you this about baseball: The owners aren't going to be traveling with us. I'm pretty sure they're going to be hanging out at their houses, watching baseball on TV. We're going to be the ones out there, if we decide to play. We're the ones taking all the risk.
For this abbreviated 2020 MLB season, players can decide to opt-out of the 2020 season at any point and they would receive both their full salary and service time for the season. Players who have high-risk family members may also decide to opt-out, but MLB has left it up to teams to make the decision of whether or not they would receive salary or service time.
MLB players are set to report for another version of "spring training" on July 1, and the regular season will start either July 23 or 24, the league announced.