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As ancillary as it gets

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MLB’s new proposal puts one group of people at considerable risk: ancillary staff

Fenway Park During Coronavirus Pandemic Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

A lot of time has been spent dissecting the current row between Major League Baseball and the players. There’s not much more that can be added to that particular disagreement. Not nearly as much time has been spent discussing the ancillary staff who have just as much to lose if the MLB owners get their way and an MLB season takes place in 2020. Umpires, trainers, coaches, managers, grounds crew, and more would be putting their lives on the line right alongside the players.

There’s been a push amongst reporters to dismiss concerns about the ancillary staff as not germane to the discussion at hand. I’m still not quite sure why that is, but it’s finally reached a point where it pisses me off. When we talk about MLB returning this season we aren’t just talking about the owners and players. All the staff that makes up a baseball game would likely still be present and still be taking tremendous risks just so that the owners could pocket more profits. There are no special circumstances that grant a member of the grounds crew immunity. They will be subject to the same risk of contracting COVID-19 as everyone else in attendance at these farcical ballgames.

The idea of MLB taking away tests from the general public if games are being played includes ancillary staff. Unless there are no plans to test ancillary staff the same as the players? If the players are going to be expected to limit their personal activities then ancillary staff should be expected to do the same. Unless there is no concern for ancillary staff catching the virus? MLB players may be asked to quarantine from their families for extended periods of time. The same should end up being true for ancillary staff unless MLB has decided they do not care about what happens to the families of ancillary staff members?

No matter how one slices this particular pie the players and ancillary staff are on near equal footing. Both groups will be taking on added risk while the owners, like usual, risk next to nothing. Ancillary staff is very germane to the discussion at hand. There can be no discussion of the risks that players are going to possibly undertake without an equal amount of time given to the risks that ancillary staff will find themselves being forced to take. Who’s to say that ancillary staff will even be paid the same as before? MLB umpires already agreed to a pay cut for the season. It’s well within the realm of possibility that the poor owners will ask underpaid security staff to take even further cuts so that they can add .01% to their end of season profit lines.

This issue makes me mad, both in terms of the risk that ancillary staff are being asked to undertake and the fact that they are being scrubbed from the conversation. We watch baseball for the baseball players, but we only get to watch baseball because of all the work put in by ancillary staff to make a game happen. They do not deserve to be erased from this discussion. Their lives are also at risk and we need to do a better job of asking MLB to explain why they are comfortable putting the lives of security guards, trainers, coaches, and camera operators at risk. Or, we can keep thinking of this as a player and owner issue. The choice is yours, unlike the ancillary staff who don’t have much of a choice when it comes to MLB risking their lives.