The Major League Baseball Players’s Association was finally able to overcome the stubbornness of Major League Baseball owners and hammer out a deal for a 2020 season. Starting July 23rd the big leagues will be back in action. There are still a lot of details to be ironed out as far as the playing of actual games goes, but as of right now when July 23rd rolls around MLB teams will be officially taking the field for the first time in 2020.
It’s easy to be excited for the resumption of the MLB season. Anyone who is happy that MLB’s brand of baseball is back is happy for good reason. MLB is big-league ball and while I may be willing to watch unaffiliated baseball by the truckload most are not as accepting of other professional leagues. For them, the big leagues are all that matter and what matters most in the here and now is that big league action is about to resume.
Throughout the MLB/MPBPA negotiations, it became clear that COVID-19 and safety were being treated as an afterthought. As we wade closer and closer to Opening Day it’s obvious that COVID-19 and safety loom large even though most are pushing those issues into the background. Of course, fans don’t want to keep worrying about safety measures and a deadly virus, they wanted their brand of baseball back and it’s about to be back. For most fans now is the time to focus on the positive and deal with any negative as it may happen.
This is where it is important that fans take a step back and realize the reality of the situation they have been presented with. Yes, MLB is resuming play, but nothing about this season will be remotely normal. That seems to be a fact that fans want to gloss over. I understand why, to admit that things are going to be completely different this year allows for the very real chance that MLB games will resume and then stop just as quickly. Fans don’t want to think of the possible negative consequences of resuming play, but there are warning signs staring them right in the face that they would be wise to acknowledge.
Looming largest is the idea and role of the taxi squads. These squads weren’t put together because the owners and players are worried about regular injuries. If that was all they were worried about then MLB simply could bring back some semblance of a Minor League Baseball season. Rather, both sides are concerned about an outbreak of COVID-19. The very real concern shared by both the owners and players is that players are going to come down with the virus and head to the injured list. The taxi squads exist solely to reinforce teams that suffer COVID-19 cases.
The very existence of the taxi squads lays bare the fact that there is the chance that an entire team could be sidelined with COVID-19. We know enough about the virus now to know that it burns through tightly clustered groups of people very fast. By virtue of the sport they play, baseball players will find themselves at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Fans need to come to grips with the fact that one day they could wake up and discover that the entirety of their team’s regular roster has been quarantined with the virus.
To be clear, there’s no way of knowing if the above will actually happen. There’s a chance the season takes place and there are only isolated cases of COVID-19. However, there’s just as much of a chance that an entire team may end up sidelined because of the virus. Fans need to recognize that fact and plan accordingly. MLB is back, but nothing about it is quite the same as before.