Major League Baseball is desperate to have a 2020 season. The latest plan to hit the rumor mill is that MLB teams will play at their spring training sites in Florida and Arizona. That’s from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, who said he’s been in contact with baseball officials discussing the plan.
The games would be played with players and staff officially under quarantine, with social distancing. There would be no spectators.
There would also be no National and American Leagues, but they would be organized into leagues based on the location in Florida or Arizona.
According to USA Today, this is how the alignment would look:
Grapefruit League (Florida)
NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.
SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.
EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.
Cactus League (Arizona)
NORTHEAST: Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.
WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.
NORTHWEST: Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals.
I can see several problems with this, but the biggest one is the most obvious: the heat. I have spent more than 30 summers in Arizona, and I can tell you no one wants to play baseball outdoors from June through September, even at night. That’s why the Diamondbacks said they needed an indoor venue and Chase Field was built.
In Florida, you not only have the heat, you also have the humidity. You also have mosquitoes who will certainly be attracted by the lights from ballparks to the buffets waiting for them. That’s why Tampa built a domed stadium, and why the Marlins insisted they needed a dome.
This could work in Florida if you played all the games at Tropicana Field and Marlins Park. We could play games like high school baseball tournaments are played. You could play four games a day if you started at 7 a.m. We could limit the games to seven innings, or we could set a time limit of three hours, with at least one hour between games. Between the two venues, you could have eight games a day.
The problem with this arrangement in Phoenix is you have only one indoor baseball venue: Chase Field. You could, I suppose, try to fit a baseball field into State Farm Stadium, which is where the NFL Arizona Cardinals play. Other than that, they’d have to play in outdoor venues.
The big problem with no fans in the stands is the big drop in revenue. Nightengale reported MLB earns $4 billion of its $10.7 billion in revenue from tickets, concessions and parking. The players’ association has indicated they do not want to take a pay cut, particularly if players are going to be away from their homes and families for so long.
One also has to ask how will fans react to having their teams away for so long. When the NFL Rams and Chargers moved to Los Angeles, they were playing to small crowds. It’s been said L.A. had been without NFL football for so long, the people there realized they didn’t really need it.
As I said, these are rumors, although Nightengale said his sources are high up in baseball. What it shows is MLB is so desperate for a 2020 season, they’re willing to consider almost anything. The reason why? Look at that revenue figure again.
Maybe they could play games with surgical masks, or ask NASA if they could borrow some space suits. Say, do you suppose they could play games on the moon? If you thought you’d seen some long home runs at Chase Field or Coors Field, they’d be nothing compared to what players could hit on the moon.
It looks like 2020 will be a memorable season for baseball. It won’t be a good season, but it will be memorable.