Not that you necessarily would have expected anything else from Major League Baseball’s group of professional athletes, but to be clear: if and when it becomes safe and legal to play baseball in some way in some location, they’re going to do it.
“Players want to play,’’ MLBPA Director Tony Clark said, per USA Today. “That’s what we do. Being able to get back on the field and being able to play, even if that means their fans are watching at home …. [Players are open to playing at neutral sites or in front of empty stadiums]. That possibility exists …. The opportunity to play in neutral sites is something both sides are willing to discuss.’’
Ultimately, per the report, the players at least want to get in 81 games in the regular season, even if that means a very late start and playing the regular season through October and the postseason through November. That, in turn, would require neutral site games, but that’s a “so be it” situation at this point.
The agreement signed by the league and the players does not require the players to play regular season games until three criteria are met (but there’s a BIG however):
- Medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to the health of players, staff, and spectators.
- There are no travel restrictions.
- Removal of legal restrictions on mass gatherings that would prevent games in front of spectators.
With the CDC’s recommendation of no mass gatherings at least until mid-May in place, obviously the season could not start before then. Moreover, realistically, it’s unlikely mass gatherings are going to be permitted in every corner of the United States until much later in the year (if at all). So the big “however” I mentioned is, again, the possibility of playing in relocated settings and/or without fans in attendance. If the games can be played safely in that way, then the games may very well proceed for TV audiences, despite those three criteria not otherwise being met.
The long and the short here, per the report and per Clark, is that the players are willing to do whatever it takes to get some portion of this season in. The neutral sites, the lengthened season, the crowd-less games, the doubleheaders, the re-allocated All-Star break, more than 21 games in a row, more travel, whatever it takes. The players are on board.