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Volume 26 No. 180
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MLB Proposes Massive Overhaul Of Health-And-Safety Protocols For '20

The exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps and bat boys/girls
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps and bat boys/girls
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The exchange of lineup cards would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps and bat boys/girls
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Health-and-safety protocols in MLB's proposed Operations Manual for '20 include "processing upward of 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, overhauling stadiums and in-game settings to encourage social distancing, and rigorous rules intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19," according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.com. The manual is a "highly detailed road map that would require a staggering amount of effort to complete." Multiple officials who have seen it expressed "skepticism about the ability to implement it, especially in a short time frame" (ESPN.com, 5/16). The AP's Ronald Blum reported under the protocols, showers at ballparks are "discouraged" and players could possibly arrive "in uniform, like they did when they were teenagers." In addition, the traditional exchange of lineup cards "would be eliminated, along with high-fives, fist bumps, and bat boys and girls." A copy was "sent to teams Friday." Clubs will be "allowed to have 50 players each under the plan, with the number active for each game still to be negotiated." Protocols also include "details on testing for team staff, who are divided into three tiers." Managers and coaches "must wear masks while in the dugouts," while the entire traveling party -- including players -- "must wear personal protective equipment while on buses and flights." Restaurants are "off limits on the road, including the ones in hotels, as are hotel fitness centers" (AP, 5/17). In N.Y., Sherman & Davidoff reported under the header, "Inside MLB’s In-Depth Plan To Deal With Coronavirus Concerns" (N.Y. POST, 5/17).

HARD TO HANDLE: The POST's Joel Sherman wrote the document is an "exhaustive effort." And while it is "impressive," it also is "depressive." Any reader of the document will be "reminded of just how many needles will have to be thread in how many places to not just restart the game, but keep it going for several months to resolution." That is "why so much of this is going to come down to just how badly do we want to play" (N.Y. POST, 5/17). In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato wrote, "The takeaway: this isn’t going to be easy, but at least they’ve done their homework." More Mastrodonato: "This booklet is thorough. So thorough, in fact, some of these requests will be difficult to enforce" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/17). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale wrote to "get ready," because if an MLB season is played this summer, it will "look like nothing we’ve ever seen in the sport’s history." Nightengale: "It is daunting. Perhaps impractical to fully regulate. But then again, maybe completely necessary if there is going to be Major League Baseball this summer." Cardinals P Andrew Miller called the manual "very thorough," but added there is "a lot of responsibility put on players and staff to do their part to avoid the virus" (USA TODAY, 5/17).

MASSIVE UNDERTAKING: On Long Island, David Lennon writes the "massive undertaking" to propose health-and-safety guidelines for a return was "merely Step 1." Not only does the MLBPA have to "sign off on these unprecedented guidelines, but everyone will have to adhere to them if baseball is going to happen this summer," and "not just occasionally." One "costly deviation from the protocols at any of those levels could blow up the entire season" (NEWSDAY, 5/18). ESPN.com's Passan wrote what is "most striking" about MLB's proposal is the "immensity of it all, the right-there-on-paper, brass-tacks accounting of what it looks like to bring back a professional sport in the middle of a global pandemic." It is a "logistical clamber, a moonshot requiring the buy-in of parties with multivariate endgames" (ESPN.com, 5/17).

HEALTH MATTERS: In Minneapolis, Phil Miller writes the blueprint "makes clear that baseball in these unprecedented conditions will look strange and may feel foreign, but also that MLB believes that games can be played without spreading the virus" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/18). In DC, Barry Svrluga reported the document "provides carefully detailed plans that consider nearly every ¬≠interaction in the sport" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/17). The STAR TRIBUNE's Miller writes under the header, "Safety And Salaries Are Major League Baseball's Most Difficult Issues" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/18). In St. Louis, Ben Frederickson writes players are "understandably hesitant to agree to any plan without clear details on the testing and quarantining process that will keep players as safe as possible," and this "should have been the focus all along" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/18). In Toronto, Gregor Chisholm wrote the "much bigger threat to the prospect of an upcoming baseball season can still be found in health and safety." The league and MLBPA can "argue about finances all they want," but before there is "any talk about money everyone must be convinced it’s even possible to play" (TORONTO STAR, 5/17).

SITTING OUT: THE ATHLETIC's Jayson Stark wondered what if MLB starts up the season and every club is "missing some key player -- or six?" Stark: "What would happen if a player chooses not to play? Would he still get paid? Would he still get a year of service time?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/15). In Boston, Peter Abraham wrote, "Don’t be surprised if some players elect to sit out the season rather than expose themselves -- and their families -- to the virus." The MLBPA "would be wise to make its best deal as quickly as possible" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/17).