On Friday night, Major League Baseball delivered a 67-page document to the Players Association detailing their proposed safety protocols for the 2020 MLB season. The Athletic reportedly received a copy of the document and has outlined highlights from five main sections.
The article is protected behind their subscription (which is very much worth it), so I won’t share too much of it here today, but we can discuss a little. ESPN also has a bit more on the document here.
To begin, here are the five main categories covered in the proposal:
• Spring Training
• Facility Protocols
• On-field Operations
Let’s go one-by-one and examine some of the information provided – some of this was previously covered in the leaks earlier this week, so be sure to check that article out for more.
According to The Athletic, the majority of the league’s tests will be run on saliva collections, though oral or nasal swabs could be used at times and blood samples could be taken for antibody testing. Even still, the league intends to monitor developments in testing procedures to use the least invasive and fastest methods. I find this to be the most important element of the proposal.
I haven’t personally had a COVID-19 test, but I know people who have had it done and I’ll say only this: the nasal swab does *not* seem like something players will want to get done multiple times per week (as per the proposal). Moreover, with most of the results taking 24 hours, there’s obviously some risk of exposure before diagnosis. So an agreement that forces the league to monitor better methods of testing might not only be better for the players personal experience, it could also help ensure a safer environment.
The league will also be contributing free testing to their communities’ first responders and health care workers as part of the plan.
There will also be daily non-testing screenings, including temperature checks, contact tracing, symptom discussions, etc.
The league intends to limit Spring Training II to 50 players per club at home ballparks, while encouraging the use of nearby fields to encourage multiple, smaller group practices.
More notably, Spring Training II would break down into a three-phased reporting schedule, including:
(1) individual and small group workouts of only pitchers and catchers divided into groups of five or fewer players assigned different times and areas of the complex.
(2) Larger groups for workouts and intra-squad games staggered at different times throughout the day.
(3) Limited number of games.
I believe the league will want to start *as slowly as possible* so as not to stumble into a false start. The risks will be greatest at the beginning (closest to peak cases and the most unknowns about ramping things back up), so they’ll have to take this very seriously.
There are a great number of facility protocols, all of which you can see in the original articles. As you can imagine, they include limiting non-essential personnel, prohibiting communal water jugs, wearing masks except on the field, limiting physical contact, and an increase of hand-sanitizing stations.
There are also restrictions on group dining, saunas, batting cages, dugout phones, and more.
Like the facility protocols, the on-field operations include any number of regulations you might expect. But some of the most interesting include: (1) pitchers will use a personal set of baseballs during bullpen sessions, (2) non-playing personnel must wear masks at all times in the dugouts, and (3) lineup cards will not be exchanged before games (they’ll use an app instead).
The most notable bit to come out of this section is that players will not be officially quarantined while traveling, but members of the traveling party (including players) will need advanced approval to leave the hotel.
Socializing with non-immediate family members or friends is not prohibited, but is discouraged … which means its allowed, but I expect this is something the league figured they’d have to bend on if they wanted any buy-in from the players.
From the ESPN piece:
“MLB will not formally restrict the activities of Covered Individuals when they are away from work,” the document said, “but will expect the members of each team to ensure that they all act responsibly. The careless actions of a single member of the team places the entire team (and their families) at risk, and teams should agree on their own off-field code of conduct for themselves and their family members to minimize the risk to the team.”
There is a LOT more in the article from The Athletic than what I shared above and likely a lot more in the actual proposal than the article, itself, shared. So if you don’t see something you might have expected to see, I’d encourage you to slide over to The Athletic or wait for the full details to emerge.
Certainly this isn’t a perfect solution – indeed, the lack of *daily* testing would be my first concern – but it is a start. And ultimately, we may have to accept less than perfect conditions if baseball operations are going to return this year.
The biggest potential hurdle remains a stumble after things begin, so I do hope every single player and person in charge of enacting these regulations takes them very seriously. Baseball can come back from one hiatus, but if they’re forced to stop again, that’ll almost certainly be it.