Former player turned podcaster Trevor Plouffe created quite a stir earlier this week with a tweet that baseball had a plan for a return, and it came with specific dates: Spring Training Part Two on June 10, and Opening Day on July 1.
The dates more or less matched what a lot of us had already been calculating as the best possible scenario for MLB, so it wasn’t hard to believe people may have talked to Plouffe about these dates. But what was hard to believe was that MLB had made that kind of firm timeline, and then communicated it to the players, who were then circulating word widely. With all due respect to Plouffe, my gut said it was more likely that these were simply additional serious discussions about possible dates, subject to the whims of the virus and the efficacy of our country’s response to it. It just didn’t make sense to me that MLB would lay out a decision in early May when they still have a fair bit of time to sit back and observe, and mull best/safest approaches.
Sure enough, that’s pretty much exactly the reality behind the scenes, according to Ken Rosenthal. It was just one MLB team – the Indians – having a call with a large portion of the organization to discuss *target* dates in case things *did* progress well. They simply wanted to give their players a heads up about what could be coming:
Though one team has discussed baseball possibly returning on July 1, no plan is close to firm. Story: https://t.co/fGMrWJErJh
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 6, 2020
In short, almost everything we already knew to be true is in place: the idea of a three-week Spring Training, maybe at home parks, is being considered, and the desire is to announce it far enough in advance so that pitchers could ramp up a little bit on their own before Spring Training Part Two actually begins. As we discussed even before Plouffe’s tweet, that will necessarily mean players would have to get a heads up by the end of May if you were looking at an early July start.
There is still so much to resolve, and so much that needs to go well, before we can get there, though. And that’s what May is about: observing progress (or regress) in COVID-19 containment/treatment/testing/tracing, considering best practices with input from professionals, resolving financial issues between the league and players, and being flexible.
So we’ll keep on following the broader national news, particularly as more states attempt the reopening process. If that does not go well – and, hey, that’s mostly up to citizens who will either abide by the experts or not – then more/extended lockdowns could arrive and scuttle any timeline baseball might be hoping for at the moment.
Had he to do it again, I suspect Plouffe would have phrased his tweet a little differently. It’s not as sexy, but something like “these are the rough dates the league is hoping to target if things go well” would’ve summed it up.
Oh, also? All of this makes it even more difficult to square Scott Boras’s position that Spring Training Part Two should begin almost immediately, even before there’s a planned set of dates for a return. I still don’t get it – is that really what his players want? When we know that a start in *two months from now* is not a certainty?
Rosenthal’s piece has much more on the state of things, the open questions, and the need for flexibility.