Baseball is back…but is that a good thing?
At long last, much to the delight of baseball fans, Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, has announced that baseball is returning, in a shortened 60 game format that will begin on July 24, and run until October. The season will also operate at a breakneck pace, with 60 games scheduled in a 66 day period. This announcement comes after a lengthy battle between players, management, and the commissioner’s office, and was no simple task to get there. However, while many people are excited about the return of the popular sport, the reality of the situation is daunting. Major League Baseball is trying to do the unthinkable- host a major, semi-contact sport during a pandemic that continues to get worse. Just last week USA Today Sports’ Bob Nightengale reported that over 40 MLB players and staff have come down with the deadly virus at spring training sites in Florida and Arizona. This also comes as 23 states have seen Covid-19 cases have increased by 30 percent over the past week, according to data retrieved from Johns Hopkins. Thus the question remains, is it even safe for Major League Baseball to return?
The Dangers Of Covid-19 & A Potential Season
The safety of the potential “season” hasn’t been discussed by the MLB, and the only thing that has primarily been discussed is the pay of players during the shortened season, leaving out a critical piece of the plan to return to action. Nevertheless, the question still exists. In a sport that thrives on team chemistry and closeness, it seems to be more of a want than a need to return to play over this season, and their want could put unnecessary lives in danger.
For example, in a place like Atlanta, Georgia, where the Braves play, brutal heat and humidity reign supreme in the summer, and the disease could have a field day with simple playing sequences (the state of Georgia has also seen an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases). For example, on a typical steamy evening, the pitcher, vigorously dripping with sweat throws a pitch to the catcher, who then puts his own sweat and bodily fluids on the ball. On the next pitch, the batter smacks a hit to the left fielder, and the left fielder throws the ball to the shortstop. Over 4 people have come in contact with a surface, and in the era of social distancing, that situation is a nightmare.
Furthermore, with MLB players returning to action after an extended hiatus, there’s no room for error. Injuries in a shortened season will be far more critical, as light sprains that would previously only cause players to miss a small part of the season will be far more costly, and players unable to train during the lockdown put their bodies at a greater risk of injury trying to rush through a sloppily organized spring training and shortened season. That could not only affect their immediate short-term future but also their long-term potential for a more lucrative contract, and future opportunities with other teams.
If there’s one slip up in the MLB’s “plan”, there could be dramatic consequences. If one player gets sick and part of their team has to quarantine, the mandatory 2-week quarantine will cause players to miss anywhere from 15 to 25% of the season, provided the season runs according to schedule. Also, the long-term effects of Covid-19 are something that should be noted. According to Christian Bime, MD, medical director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Banner – University Medical Center in Tucson, people with COVID have the potential to develop a syndrome that could limit lung capacity, among a dizzying array of long-term side effects. Baseball is a physically demanding sport, and anything that takes players out of their top form could be disastrous to their baseball career, not to mention their health once they hang up the cleats.
The MLB is playing with fire, regardless of how many “health precautions” it promises to take. While the MLB is being praised for its ability to come together and start, they should take more precautions regarding a potential season. At the moment, what the MLB is proposing to do isn’t just silly, but it’s ridiculously dangerous and has a massively imbalanced risk-reward ratio. If the MLB can perfectly pull off the plan with no spread of Covid-19 it will be wonderful, but if they cannot do so and add to the growing list of cases, it hurts us all.