On Monday, Jeff Passan wrote that there will be a 2020 MLB season. He did not say that there might be a season this year. There will be. He also wrote,
Over the past two weeks, as states have begun to plan their reopenings, nearly everyone along the decision-making continuum—league officials, players, union leaders, owners, doctors, politicians, TV power brokers—have grown increasingly optimistic that there will be baseball this year.
Passan, of course, doesn’t answer the questions of when the season will start, where it will take place, or how it will all shake out. No one knows that. He also doesn’t answer the question of why. Why is there optimism for the season to take place?
Baseball has recommenced in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League and the Korea Baseball Organization is still set to open its season on May 5 which shows that baseball is still possible in the face of the deadliest pandemic since Influenza. Taiwan and South Korea, however, have excellent work in containing COVID-19. According to USA Today, which draws information from the WHO, the CDC, and John Hopkins University, Taiwan has reported 429 cases and just six deaths while South Korea reports 10,752 cases and 244 deaths. Taiwan and South Korea have populations of 23.8 million and 51.6 million respectively.
In the United States, where 29 of the 30 MLB teams call home, the total number of cases is approaching 1 million. The United States reports more than twice the number of deaths than any other country. 56,255 Americans have died. Other countries may be doing worse on a per capita basis, and reporting numbers from other areas could be artificially low (though the same could be said of the US), but there’s no way to paint 56,255 deaths in 96 days as anything but horrifying.
The virus isn’t slowing either, but that’s not keeping states from re-opening. Tennessee allowed for dine-in restaurants to open the day after it reported its largest one-day jump in confirmed cases. In the case of local governments, I can understand the urge to get back to business. People are out of work and small business owners run the risk of losing everything. People’s lives hang in the balance whether Tennessee stays home or goes to work.
That same urgency doesn’t apply to baseball. Baseball isn’t essential. Play should not commence unless the league can guarantee safety for the players and other necessary staff. Maybe they can do that with some iteration of the hub plans which would see players, coaches, hotel staff, bus drivers, etc. in quarantine. From what we know, that’s the only possible way for the season to happen. Even then, players would be asked to isolate themselves from their families. Zack Wheeler is just one person who would be asked to miss the birth of a child while the players are kept in isolation.
No one should have to risk their health or their life because we want something to watch. No one should have to miss the birth of their child because we’re bored.
I wish that MLB’s insistence that there will be a season made me excited, but they’ve made no effort to prove that it’s a good idea. The owners and the union and politicians can say they envision baseball this summer all they want, but they haven’t shown how we’ll get there.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.