Amidst professional sports’ attempts to find a viable solution for safely returning to action, baseball illustrates the many complexities involved. It took three months of negotiations for the league and the players to finally restart summer camp to prepare for a shortened season. This, of course, likely is a prelude to a 2021 showdown when the two sides will renegotiate their next labor agreement.
Initially, several teams were unable to begin summer training camps because lab results were held up by the July 4 weekend. Players are supposed to be tested every other day, and nearly every team has important players testing positive. This includes Minnesota’s Miguel Sano, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, Kansas City’s Salvador Perez, San Diego’s Tommy Pham, Texas’ Joey Gallo and the Yankees’ D.J. LeMahieu.
This has led some players like outfielder Nick Markakis to opt-out of the 60-game season rather than risk injury or illness. He also cited isolation from his three children and the fact that the entire season will occur with empty stadiums. Other players opting out include Los Angeles Dodgers’ David Price and Atlanta’s Felix Hernandez (both Cy Young winners), Colorado’s Ian Desmond, Arizona’s Mike Leake and Washington, DC’s Ryan Zimmerman. All have large contracts, which afforded them the ability to bypass the season with little financial hardship.
Zimmerman teammate Sean Doolittle summed up many of the restarting difficulties recently during a Zoom interview with the media:
“We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people,” the reliever said. “We’re way worse off as a country than we were in March when we shut this thing down. And, like, look where the other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve.”
The logistics get harder
Training is challenging because every team is aware that an outbreak could ruin the season. It will certainly get harder as teams travel and compete. Moreover, there is still much uncertainty as the novel Coronavirus continues to rack up record numbers of infections in the U.S. This could lead baseball officials to abandon or change any or all of these plans. Check back to this space for new information.