Fans should continue to hold their breath until the Atlanta Braves actually take the field.
So far -- and this is something that could change at any moment along the way -- no Atlanta Braves player has announced a decision to "opt out" of the 2020 season.
That's not the case for some players: according to multiple sources today, 1B Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross of the Nationals, plus starter Mike Leake of the Diamondbacks are the first three who have made the choice to abandon their contracts and stay home to protect their families.
Beyond that, Buster Olney of ESPN was on Golic & Wingo this morning expressing a level of pessimism that's almost stunning:
Olney was asked what he thought the odds were that a baseball season is finished in 2020 and a champion is crowned.
"Zero percent," Olney replied.
Then he was asked what the odds are that the 2020 baseball season is played as planned.
"Five percent," Olney said.
There is a reason for having this so-called "taxi squad" of players at the ready: it's to allow clubs to field an entire viable team in the event of a viral disaster.
It's no accident that there are 30 of them... the same number that will start this season on major league rosters. MLB is that desperate to get the sport going in some form this Summer.
But could such a disaster happen? Sure: it would require the following:
- 1 player catches the virus. Without knowing this, he becomes contagious before a test can show he's got it. The rest of the club picks it up. They're all out for a while.
- Enter the entire taxi squad... rinse and repeat that scenario.
It could happen, but the likelihood of it happening is difficult to see play out - particularly with the level of testing going on in addition to teammates watching the backs of one another to observe risky actions.
The more likely scenario involves governmental authorities and their willingness to allow sports to play on even if their citizens are being locked down again. There still is a legal standard in this country of 'equal protection under the law', and if one group is being told they can't function normally, they'll rightly point to others having more freedom and ask "what about them?"
So with continuing spikes of cases popping up in the South (a lot of the lower 48, in fact), it's not hard to imagine a Governor shutting down their state (again) and putting baseball in jeopardy.
The teams that might plausibly be at risk in this scenario include the Atlanta Braves since Georgia is in this group. It's unknown just how bad things might have to get for players to start opting out more often, too.
Olney may be the pessimist here, but his opinion is a call to action for all Americans: stay vigilant, stay safe, and do these things to help your neighbors. It's not about us... it's about all of us.