A report from ESPN earlier this week floated the idea of Major League Baseball returning as early as May. The plan would include sequestering players and holding games in empty ballparks in the Phoenix area.
Like almost-owner of the New York Mets Steve Cohen, I’m not buying it.
As I wrote last week, the league and the Players Association agreed that the season will not begin until three conditions are met: 1) All bans are lifted on mass public gatherings 2) All travel restrictions in the United States and Canada are lifted 3) Medical experts deem that there would be no health risks for players, staff or fans.
Even if games are played without fans, operating the league and its 30 franchises still requires the mobilization of hundreds, if not thousands, of players, coaches, trainers, ballpark staff, front office employees and more. If it takes a village to raise a child, imagine how much it takes to run an organization. Or 30.
My involvement in MLB ends with writing my column from home, and yet I already have a headache from just thinking about the logistics and costs of conducting even a shortened MLB season from a handful of hotels and stadiums in Arizona.
In fact, MLB has already pumped the brakes on the idea, releasing a statement on Tuesday morning clarifying, “While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan.” In other words, everybody calm down. It’s just one possible route.
In lieu of optimism that baseball will start back up next month (or at all), I would like to applaud the league for its creativity in a period with no baseball to cover or watch. With an endless stream of classic games, quizzes and online brackets — even at-home tutorials from players — MLB has delivered top-notch entertainment and distraction during our new reality of social distancing.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the league’s online content this past month. MLB Network has really embraced its slogan, “Our national pastime all the time.”
But I have a suggestion for MLB (because I know they totally read the 7th Inning Stretch). In addition to the fun videos and listicles, the league has a real opportunity to amplify the voices and actions of those around the game who are doing good in this time of need.
In his Sunday notes column in the Boston Globe this past weekend, Red Sox beat writer Pete Abraham floated the idea of MLB continuing its in-season custom of naming an American League and National League Player of the Week, instead offering the title to players who are engaging in charitable acts. As Abraham wrote, “If MLB recognized two players each week, it would encourage others to step up and add to that total. Good news like that would be welcome by everybody.”
I could not agree more. Let’s honor those who are using their platforms and their wealth to help others. Whether it’s a donation to a local food bank, commitment to financially support minor leaguers or lifting up the frontline workers of the coronavirus pandemic, there are countless examples of good right now.
This past weekend, Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander announced that he will be donating his MLB paychecks to various charities playing a part in the coronavirus response. Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo said he will give $1,000 each to 190 minor leaguers in his organization, and St. Louis veteran Adam Wainwright donated $250,000 to Cardinals minor leaguers. Just to name a few.
My personal favorite story comes courtesy of Fanatics, the official uniform manufacturer for MLB, which announced late last month that it would halt jersey production and instead use its signature polyester mesh fabric to make masks and gowns for hospital workers.
Not only is this decision simply kind and moral, it offers an excellent opportunity for MLB to promote both Fanatics’ efforts and the heroes benefiting from their new products. Let’s see a social media campaign celebrating doctors and nurses as they rock their favorite club’s letters while they save lives.
In this unprecedented time, even as we distance ourselves from others physically, it’s important to pull together and support others. Many around the league are already doing that, and it would be great to see more of an effort on the part of MLB to share and commend such selflessness.
In an interview with MLB Network last week, Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado spoke about the importance of giving back to his community. He said he recognizes the position he’s in socially and financially, and embraces the opportunity to help those who are not as privileged.
“A lot of people in this country are going through a really hard time, and that breaks my heart, so I don’t have it as bad as some people,” Arenado said. “I feel a little bad complaining. I’m just happy that I’m healthy right now and I’m just waiting, hoping we get to start the season sometime.”
Arendao gets it. A lot of players do. As we wait for baseball to return, whether that happens in May, June or even next year, let’s continue to acknowledge the generosity and compassion of so many from around the game. It’s not only heart-warming and genuinely worthy of recognition, it’s good publicity and engagement for the sport.
Whether that’s through official honors from the league or simply spreading the good deeds of others, MLB has a special opportunity to continue doing what it always does: inspire, entertain and unite people. America is hurting, and the nation’s pastime should continue to step up.