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Volume 26 No. 176
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Pair Of MLB Owners Say Games Without Fans In Arizona A Tough Sell

MLB team owners said that their local TV money will be slashed by playing in Arizona
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
MLB team owners said that their local TV money will be slashed by playing in Arizona
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
MLB team owners said that their local TV money will be slashed by playing in Arizona
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Reports have circulated this week of MLB possibly looking at opening its season in Arizona without fans, but a pair of MLB owners said that they "would never approve any deal if there are no fans without requiring players to take a significant pay cut -- perhaps as much as 40%," according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. No fans in the stands, no parking revenue and no concessions "wipes out" about $4B of the $10.7B in revenue MLB generated last year. Owners also said that their local TV money will be "slashed by playing in Phoenix." Nightengale notes there also is the "loss of corporate sponsorships, and stadium naming rights considering no games are being played at their ballparks." MLB is "trying everything to keep its hopes of a 2020 season alive, discussing a myriad of ideas, but the risk of playing anytime soon should dwarf the idea that entertainment in our lives will make this deadly virus any less tolerable" (USA TODAY, 4/8).

WORK TO BE DONE: In N.Y., Joel Sherman notes the Arizona plan has "gained the most traction" of anything thus far. But those involved in formation, potential implementation and need for ratification of such a proposal are "quick to mention a massive gulf exists between brainstorming on what is feasible and actually executing a plan considering all the risks and hurdles." MLB has "yet to submit a plan for approval nor has it received a formal green light from any government or health entity on a variety of scenarios that it has mulled." Still, the Arizona idea has "some momentum because behind the scenes it has received support from key government and national medical officials," who recognize the "symbolic value baseball could have for the country." Without a vaccine, MLB and its medical/scientific advisers are "strategizing about just how much risk can be minimized with disciplined practices," and the league is "hearing more frequently that testing will soon be more readily available and that regular testing of players and limiting their exposure outside of the bubble created in Arizona might provide an avenue to restart spring training as early as May" (N.Y. POST, 4/8). NBC Sports' Craig Calcaterra said the idea is only preliminary, as "you have to throw a lot of ideas against the wall.” But the "compacted timeline that came out ... is a bit unrealistic” (“Lunch Talk Live,” NBCSN, 4/7). ESPN’s Mark Teixeira said, “This current plan is completely unrealistic. If you actually look at the logistics … there is no way that you’re going to be able to bring guys to Arizona that early, mobilize them for a couple of weeks and start playing games” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 4/8).

WHATEVER IT TAKES: In Phoenix, Nick Piecoro notes the plan has been "greeted with skepticism from players, some of whom can’t imagine agreeing to be separated from their families for the duration of the season." D-backs C Stephen Vogt said, "I definitely think this is just a first idea that’s being thrown around." He added, "What I took away from this initial proposal is that it shows MLB's dedication to just, hey, we’re trying to do whatever we can to get the longest season possible for the fans, the players and everyone who works in the industry of baseball" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/8). THE ATHLETIC's Andy McCullough wrote the plan is "either a ray of light during a moment of national disillusion or a dystopian experiment with harrowing downsides." Among MLB players and managers, there is a "combination of excitement and apprehension," with expressions of hope "leavened by concerns about the safety of support staffers, the desert heat, the difficulty of maintaining quarantine and the strain of being separated from their families." However, it is "unclear when, or if, a better option may emerge" (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/8). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the idea is "forward thinking and forward looking," as MLB "has to make plans (and) not just one plan” ("PTI," ESPN, 4/7).

SOOTHING FOR THE SOUL: In Chicago, Paul Sullivan writes people are "getting antsy for their sports, and the return of baseball would be a soothing balm to a country dealing with the depressing daily updates of the coronavirus pandemic" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/8). Also in Chicago, Rick Telander writes, "Crazy. The thing is, it would be baseball. With real major-leaguers playing. How could anyone be against that? Baseball is such a powerful symbol in America" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/8). CBSSN's Adam Schein said, "If you're a baseball fan, a sports fan, if you’re someone who needs a distraction during these times, this is obviously some excellent news now" ("Time To Schein," CBSSN, 4/7).

TOUGH SELL: In Newark, Brendan Kuty writes the plan has "many holes" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/8). In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes under the header, "Is MLB So Desperate To Squeeze In Season That It Would Put Lives At Risk?" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/8). In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes under the header, "Plan To Launch MLB Season In A Coronavirus-Free Arizona Bubble Isn’t Airtight" (L.A. TIMES, 4/8). In Philadelphia, Bob Brookover writes playing the games "so the players can be paid and the owners can get their television money is not a good enough reason to start the season" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/8). In S.F., John Shea writes the plan "seems unrealistic, far-fetched and maybe even inappropriate," not to mention a "logistical nightmare" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/8). On Long Island, David Lennon writes if MLB or the CDC or the NIH "can’t devise a successful plan to shield players for up to five months in a major metropolitan area, there’s really no point investing any hope in a baseball season, as much as that stinks." Lennon: "MLB can’t force the issue" (NEWSDAY, 4/8).