With each passing day, the rhetoric is getting ramped up higher. Will there be any Atlanta Braves baseball this Summer?
If it were only as simple as "do you want to play or not?"... except that it's not that easy. Right now an Atlanta Braves season -- shortened or not -- seems awfully far away as people from all sides are making it sound like they can't even understand what the other side is thinking.
Each side appears to be digging holes that are increasing in depth. What's more, there are multiple holes involved and each side has principled beliefs that they are clinging to.
In short: there appear to be three major issues that are impacting any baseball restart conversation. These are:
Let's illustrate these problems with some actual quotes:
On Player Safety
Sean Doolittle of the Nationals has been quite pointed in his remarks on twitter. Here are just two of them:
There has been some pushback on the subject of player testing as this next tweet illustrates, though frankly, this one is a bit ill-informed:
In all seriousness, the issue of test availability is resolved at this point. The matter now will be more along the lines of "how often should players be tested?" more than "would we be diverting necessary resources to provide tests to MLB?".
Nonetheless, there are those still concerned about such things (obviously), and those concerns would have to be addressed as part of the bigger picture.
That bigger picture involves how players would be kept free of the virus.
On the field of play, the chances of contracting COVID-19 from any other game participant would be vanishingly small. This is partly due to the natural separation of players/umpires/coaches on the field, but also because of climate considerations as we head into the Summer months.
But it's not just about the field: it's about locker rooms, contact with the media, hotel staff, restaurant staff, trainers... and anyone not within the 'connected bubble' whose movements can be controlled to any degree.
It's this problem that Doolittle and others are concerned about. And if not for themselves, it's also about the potential to carry things back home to their families.
Oddly enough, the idea of playing baseball only at "hub centers" was looking like a non-starter because of the isolation problem for players being apart from their families.
Now it's the opposite concern being raised: the possible exposure of players and their families as they stay together. It's thus a lose/lose scenario either way, and perhaps that's what's in the mind of some: here's a Thursday update:
Snell is the first to make such a declaration. If others follow, the assessment of the rest of these problems areas could be moot.
On Locations and Venues
On Tuesday (May 12), this bombshell was released by a Los Angeles County official:
Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home orders will “with all certainty” be extended for the next three months, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
Ferrer later added that even if the orders remain in place through the summer, restrictions will be “gradually relaxed” under a five-step plan.
"The next three months" puts us into August, a date that seems simultaneously unfathomable and yet possible.
So think we'll see baseball at either Dodger Stadium or Angels Stadium any time soon? Not very likely. And that's not considering the problems in New York City or Toronto (thanks to a 14-day Canadian quarantine order).
So that bit about playing your home games in your own home parks? At least 5 venues are out of the question for now, and perhaps those in the rest of California as well (San Diego and San Francisco).
However, there's at least one volunteer to take up the slack: Florida...
Is this a political trick? An empty gesture? Probably 'yes' on the first question, but 'no' on the second one. The offer not only appears to be genuine but also comes from a state that's well-equipped to handle any nomadic team wanting a home-away-from-home.
Sure: it would be a shrewd economic move for the state, but it's also an interesting and viable alternative for some clubs... though would the Dodgers really want to play regular-season home games 3000 miles away?
On The MLB Restart and Money
This is the real gotcha. Even some players - or ex-players - aren't in full agreement here:
Among others, this got a forceful reaction from Reds (and former Atlanta Braves) pitcher Alex Wood.
The Governor of Illinois -- who probably can't promise anyone a field to play on until at least July -- decided to weigh in as well:
Heck, even Sean Doolittle's wife (an Illinois resident) couldn't say silent on that point:
On top of that was an outright rejection of the initial restart plan that MLB-corporate put together. The issue? As expected, the initial idea of sharing revenues was stomped on outright as being a de facto salary cap.
Sorry, Tony Clark, but like it or not, there will be something akin to a salary cap in 2020 (if you insist on calling it that) because there are payment numbers that the league will not exceed. But it's less of a "cap" and more like a "limited supply of funds".
Still, this was the initial proposal and rhetoric aside, it remains in the interests of both sides -- presuming that both Safety and Venue hurdles can be successfully addressed -- to find a way to get this done.
Given the old adage 'half a loaf is better than none', the starting point right now is that half loaf... and each week without baseball will continue to lop additional slices away from what remains.
Meanwhile, the shovels are still active and the holes are getting deeper.