Anthony Rizzo and Ian Happ on Quarantining Baseball in Arizona, Families, Player Health, and Being Prepared

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Anthony Rizzo and Ian Happ on Quarantining Baseball in Arizona, Families, Player Health, and Being Prepared

Chicago Cubs

With the national conversation increasingly shifting to “what happens next,” including Midwest governors coming together on a series of checkpoints before they will start to reduce or adjust the social distancing guidelines that have most things shut down, we’re probably going to see a resurgence in conversations about ideas on how to play baseball this year, if at all.

Ken Rosenthal today offers a fantastic Q&A with Anthony Rizzo, from how he’s staying in shape to how he’s helping out so many communities to how his own experience with cancer has him thinking about the current pandemic to how he feels about the Cubs’ current window of contention and core group. It’s definitely worth your time today.

As a thoughtful, veteran player, Rizzo is the kind of guy you want to hear from about a range of topics, and yes, that includes how baseball should proceed this year.

Rizzo, as you’d expect, is asked about The Arizona Plan as an avenue to return to baseball, and he expresses much of the skepticism and concerns that we’ve heard about from players. The biggest is that it would simply be unworkable for many players to relocate to a quarantine situation for four+ months away from their families. (It’s still up in the air whether families would be able to fit into this plan or not.)

Rosenthal pushed back, saying the Arizona quarantine “might not be that long. It might be more like six weeks, only at the start.”  That’s certainly an important distinction to make, because it is *possible* that the Arizona Plan is a placeholder to start the season, allowing for teams to return to their normal homes and stadiums later in the summer and fall, when it is safe to do so. (Of course, the counter to that is … what if you start in Arizona and then you’re never “safe” to go back to your normal homes for the rest of the season? From my perspective, that’s why you’re going to have to permit families from the start, or at least at some guaranteed point.)

Rizzo’s response to Rosenthal, when he mentions six weeks: “Six weeks, I think that can work. It’s just the logistics of it. Hotel workers and grounds crew and cameramen. … It can be pulled off. I think it could. But health and salaries, how do you work through all that? They can’t pay us full pay, right? Then playing into November, December, you’re jeopardizing getting ready for next season. I want to play. But we don’t want to jeopardize two years of baseball. That’s the hard part.”

Player health (non-COVID-variety) and player compensation are absolutely going to be critical negotiating points if anything like this is going to work. You cannot ask the players to participate in something like this if it isn’t financially worth it for them (obviously different players are in different positions on that front), and you cannot create a schedule that doesn’t protect players from unreasonable injury risks. For me, that’s why I’ve been presuming whatever happens, the season is almost certainly not going to start before, say, July, and will be very short – ending the regular season at some point in October. Without that kind of limitation, I feel like you’re exposing players to too much injury risk this and/or next year.

Meanwhile, Ian Happ spoke with 670 The Score about how he’s dealing with the current situation – he’s currently out in Arizona at a house with some org-mates – and said he understand why these conversations are happening, even if it’s too early to know what can and cannot happen.

“Right now, they’re just exhausting every possible option,” Happ told The Score. “You have to have all these plans in place. You have to think through them from a logistics standpoint, from a time standpoint. And then once we as a union and a league find out more about CDC recommendations, about where we’re heading as a country from a gathering standpoint, I think then some decisions can be made.

“If we’re not brainstorming now, if we’re not trying to figure out every possible solution, then once the time comes, we’ll be behind. I think they’re doing the right things in trying to figure out every possible way to play baseball games this year. I know all the players are just hoping we’ll find a way to get them in somehow.”

That’s where most of us are, too. We hope there is a way to make it happen safely.

Lots more good stuff in the Rizzo interview and the Happ interview.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.