All 30 Major League Baseball teams coming to the Valley, and Phoenix being the center of the entire sports world, is an awesome idea in theory. In practice, however, that is quite the puzzle to figure out.
The league issued a statement on Tuesday regarding the report of their potential plans to try and begin the season as early as May.
“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.”
If there is a way to pull this off, Major League Baseball will have the entire country’s attention.
"You have to appreciate Major League Baseball's creativity trying to figure out a way to still play," said seven-year MLB veteran and current GCU head baseball coach Andy Stankiewicz.
The MLB is in the business of playing baseball, but the lack of fans presents a financial hurdle. Of course there is TV revenue, but empty seats equal no gate revenue for owners, meaning the likelihood of this happening will largely come down to the players.
"The players are very mixed on it," said USA Today Sports MLB columnist and MLB Network Insider Bob Nightengale. "Younger players are saying let's do it, let me get my check. Some of the older players are saying I want to be by my family and I don't want to be in 110-degree heat in the summertime. The owners will be fine as long as the players realize that they're going to have to take a pay cut. They're not going to pay their full salary."
Besides the pay and the heat, in order to make this work, players and staff would have to be isolated in hotels and only go back and forth between the ballpark. They could be away from their families for nearly five months.
"Remember though, a lot of these guys have come through the minors and have done this before," Stankiewicz said. "They've left home and their families, and this is kind of the grind that you go through."
There is also the issue of testing and receiving rapid results, but also this bubble that the MLB would have to create to ensure the safety of everyone between 11 ballparks, hotel staff, bus drivers, increased rosters and team personnel, and so on. Would players feel comfortable under the circumstances?
"To a certain extent," said nine-year MLB vet and former D-back Augie Ojeda. "But if one of your teammates gets COVID-19, it'll be like whoa, now what? Do I have to be isolated or the whole team have to be isolated?"
Then there is the sheer volume of bringing 30 teams to Arizona when the worst is supposedly yet to come.
"They're talking about as many as 100 people per team coming to town," said Nightengale. "You're talking about 3000 strangers dropping in from all states, 10-12 different countries. Is Phoenix ready for that?"
There are so many layers to figuring out if this can work, or even should. One thing is for sure, something of this magnitude is going to take time, which begs the question, is a potential late May or June start even realistic
"Honestly, it would be hard to pull off" said Ojeda. "I want them to do it because I want to see baseball, but for player safety and the game, I don't know. I'd rather have them be safe and we wait another month and see what's going on in June and July and extend the season to November."
"I think it's a real long shot," said Nightengale. "If you want to try something like this in July, maybe. Right now I'd give it less than a 10 percent chance. I just think there are too many risks involved, too many question marks."