Oh baseball, how we all have missed you. As the truncated MLB season enters its second week of action, it is impossible to argue that there have been numerous headlines that have made their way to the forefront. The most notable and most entertaining baseball headline has been Joe Kelly’s 8-game suspension for doing no more than throwing near Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa and making a few funny faces in the process. The other major headline(s) have all been COVID-19 related. Which begs the question: why hasn’t the MLB decided to play this season in a bubble, like the other major sports leagues in North America?
As sports slowly began to resume across the world, starting in Germany with their top tier football league Bundesliga on May 18th, and most recently with the NHL and the NBA. Sports fans were just happy to have live competition on their televisions. Restarting sports in North America has been a long process, but each league that was postponed in March meticulously planned their re-entry strategy. Baseball would follow this trend, despite their season never starting due to the virus.
The MLS, North America’s soccer league, decided to play a tournament called “MLS is Back“, which is currently taking place in a bubble environment in Orlando, Florida. Similarly, the NBA is re-starting their season in a bubble environment in the same city. The NHL is starting their playoffs in two hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton, both large Canadian cities. Just like the other two leagues, the NHL is using a bubble environment to complete its season.
What does this “bubble” entail? Well, no in-person attendance is allowed. Those who wish to root their favorite teams on must do so from the comfort of their own homes. Next, there is no home field/ice/court advantage for any team, besides the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose home arenas are hosting all teams in the NHL bubbles. Finally, there is no transportation between cities for games. All teams are staying near their competition sites to limit exposure to the virus. All of these measures are extremely logical and were planned specifically to allow the respective leagues finish their seasons.
The MLB decided to start their season, albeit a 60-game season, on July 23rd. What is the major problem that the league currently faces? There is no bubble environment in place. While the league designed each team’s schedule to limit travelling as best as possible, each team is still hopping on planes and increasing their virus exposure with each series they play. So why does this matter? Well, on top of baseball already finding itself in a bad spot, it is exposing its players to this virus, and to nobody’s surprise, players are contracting it.
Fans were thrown off when Juan Soto, one of baseball’s top young players, had tested positive for the virus just hours before the season was supposed to begin. While this was unwelcome news, the MLB was confident that one case of the virus would not do much to slow the league’s plan down. Fortunately, Soto has received consecutive negative test results and should be back on the field soon.
To make matters progressively worse, news broke shortly after the season began that multiple members of the Miami Marlins team and staff had tested positive for the virus. This was unfortunate news for everyone because a few games needed to be postponed. Even more worryingly, news broke today that multiple members of the St. Louis Cardinals had tested positive for the virus. The League and the fans began to panic more than they did yesterday about the status of this baseball season. You see how this story may end.
A Simple Solution
While it is too late for the MLB to re-design their season restart plan and logistics, the current misfortunes they are facing could have been avoided without much effort whatsoever. You know baseball’s spring training, and how half of the teams in the MLB play their spring training games in Florida, in their own stadiums, and the other half plays in Arizona, in their own stadiums also? What if the league sent all teams to their respective spring training facility to play this shortened season, where no air travel would be necessary? What if the home-field advantage could have remained, just in a more concentrated location to limit players and coaches’ exposure to the virus?
While it is not a bubble scenario, it is certainly better than the situation the MLB has drafted up and is attempting to execute. Baseball is in a tough spot right now, but using a bit of logic at the beginning of the process would have helped their cause exponentially.
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