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MLB Ignored “Bubble” Scenarios as Coronavirus Rates Spike in Parts of the Country

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At the early stages of the pandemic, MLB had floated ideas out that when they could resume play, they might want to stage them in a hub like in Arizona, or have games regionalized in Arizona, Texas, and/or Florida to limit the risk of traveling. Players were not found of an idea like a bubble, as it may keep them from loved ones for a lengthy period of time. So, Instead of bringing a group of teams to Disney World (like the NBA and MLS) or concentrating on a few hub cities (like the current NHL plan), MLB has 30 teams spread all over the United States and potentially Canada, with players, coaches, and team personnel trying to stay healthy while cases are still spreading.

This is going to create a problem for teams, who may have to relocate their home fields mid-season if the spikes get too bad. Toronto is the middle of a situation in which government restrictions may force them to stay at their spring training site in Dunedin Florida or possibly play at their AAA affiliates park in Buffalo, N.Y.

This is as COVID-19 rates spike in certain parts of the country. States that were doing well, such as Arizona, Texas, and Florida, are now seeing daily increases. Recent data may have an implication for this, which will be discussed later, but for now, MLB has a lot of work ahead of them.

MLB recently put out its plan for combating the spread of the virus. The on-field portion of this plan is largely addressed in their rather large manual that covers everything from hotels to showers to spitting. It will be awkward and sometimes not particularly practical, but teams are vowing to do their best.

It is outside of the stadium that has some worried.

Texas Rangers coach Chris Woodward said health issues will be critical throughout the season and the usual carefree life of a ballplayer will be a bit tamer. While health is obviously the most important issue, there’s also the on-field realization that losing players for several days to COVID-19 might also be the difference between winning or losing the World Series.

“The younger guys that are single that, you know, tend to be a little bit more social,” Woodward said. “Those are going to be the challenging ones because they’re not going to want to sit in your hotel room on road trips. But I think it’s their responsibility that they have to the ballclub and the organization and their teammates, honestly.”

So that leads us to the younger members of society. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, Younger coronavirus patients are a widening percentage of total coronavirus hospitalizations, with those in the 18 to 49 age group growing from about 27 percent of hospitalizations the week ending March 7 to 35 percent this past week, according to the CDC.

This led to the governors of Texas and Florida closing bars on Friday except for delivery and take out and limiting restaurant capacity to 50 percent. This also comes as Florida officials yanked liquor licenses from bars that were not adhering to social distancing and capacity guidelines.

The Post also recently said that Health officials in many of these states are imploring young people to wear masks and practice social distancing as coronavirus transmission among younger Americans continued to drive record outbreaks in several states.

But with a lot at stake, MLB players are hoping that all of their players, young and old will stick to the guidelines that are imposed in MLB’s health manual.

Minnesota Twins closer Taylor Rogers stated: “A lot of it’s going to be on you, on the honor system. Don’t be the one person that’s going to mess it up for everybody else. When you want to go do something or something like that, you need to remember it’s about your team, not just yourself.”

In the meantime, teams are preparing as best they can to get things rolling on July 1, the start of spring training 2.0.

Chicago White Sox GM Rick Hahn said his team’s travel department has a busy week ahead, but that they’ve been planning on this scenario for quite a while. That is because the first step is to get players back to their home cities, which will serve as most teams’ spring training site. There are plenty of logistics involved with domestic and international travel. Some players might face significant hurdles: For instance, Arizona pitcher Bo Takahashi is coming back to the U.S. from Brazil, which is another coronavirus hotspot.

At least most have a general feeling that the challenges are real but so is the payoff. For MLB, a strange 60-game season is a better alternative than no season at all.



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