The Arizona Royals? MLB Says Not So Fast
No the Kansas City Royals aren't moving to Arizona. However, a widely reported rumor yesterday said that Major League Baseball was considering a plan to start the season as early as May. The scenario had all the teams playing at one facility in Arizona, probably Chase Field, without fans in attendance.
Major League Baseball felt the need to address the rumors widely reported yesterday:
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.
So yeah, Major League Baseball has at least had the idea to play at one facility as being one option. Without fans in attendance, and assuming a facility is picked that has a dome, or a retractable dome, you could probably play four games a day if you start early enough and play late enough.
The intriguing part about using one ball park or even two ballparks, how do you keep the players, the staff, the umpires, the broadcasters and the reporters safe? I suppose in a scenario that has no fans you could somehow erect temporary club house facilities in the concourses and try and isolate the teams from each other. You could limit the broadcast teams and reporters too, although I'm not sure how appealing it might be for the average fan to have to listen or watch national guys calling their team's games.
Baseball's played through everything. Soldiers during our Civil War played baseball. There was baseball during World War I, World War II, the Great Depression and who can forget when the Yankees faced off against the Diamondbacks in the World Series in Yankee Stadium weeks after 9-11?
It's a tradition, during hard times sports helps us forget about our problems. Even if just for a little while. Especially baseball. So I have to think someone at Major League Baseball is thinking about how games can be played while we're all social distancing and stuck at home. Not just for the practical business reason: money. But because it is tradition.
Ron Shelton has his character Annie Savoy, played by Susan Sarandon, paraphrase a Walt Whitman quote in Bull Durham:
I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.*
That's why I think we're going to see baseball this year. It may start in May at Chase Field. It may start in empty stadiums like Kauffman in July. But when the game can be played with a reasonable assurance entire rosters won't get infected with the coronavirus, baseball will be back.
*Brian Cronin of the Los Angeles Times wrote a piece published in 2012 that looked at whether Bull Durham writer Ron Shelton put the words his character Annie Savoy says in Whitman's mouth, or whether Whitman actually said those words. It turns out Shelton came up with a pretty good paraphrase of what Whitman told Horace L.Traubel about baseball in 1888. You can read Cronin's piece here.