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Major League Baseball considering 'radical' idea to start season next month, despite pandemic

Ross D. Franklin
The Associated Press
This March 26, 2020 file photo shows Chase Field in Phoenix, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, which has been empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. The MLB floated an idea this week to have all 30 teams play in the Phoenix area with no fans.


Major League Baseball is considering a plan that would start the season as soon as mid-May, despite the coronavirus pandemic. KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick that the idea is pretty out there.


“Baseball is very, very eager to get its season underway,” Thiel said. “The owners want the revenues; the players want the paychecks. So executives in Major League Baseball are considering the option of having an entire season played in the greater Phoenix area at spring training stadiums that are already there plus the Major League Park where the Arizona Diamondbacks play.

“They would sequester all the players and test them on a regular basis for the coronavirus. They would shuttle all the players in disinfected buses across the Valley of the Sun. And they would also have to try to test all the support personnel involved in creating a game.

Thiel says the complicated scenario would have to be set up in a way that amounts to "a clean biosphere to keep out a pandemic."

"It's an absolutely absurd notion," he said, "but I give MLB credit for at least thinking out of the box."


Under the plan, Thiel says players would sit in empty stands, not in the dugout, to maintain a safe distance.

"Managers would not be allowed to go to the mound to talk to pitchers. There wouldn't be any umpires calling balls and strikes that would be done robotically," he said. "So the game would change in many ways. This is just an idea, not anything they're proposing yet.”


Thiel says this could be an opportunity for the Mariners. 

“Because this is year two of the step back. They're trying to develop players. And the chance that this could help them is, I think, a worthy consideration," Thiel said. “The rosters would have to be expanded to accommodate the compressed schedule. And those players could be the young prospects on the Mariners. Management could see them under Major League conditions and make early decisions on whether they're part of the future.”


Overall, Thiel says it's not a good idea.

“There are so many things that could go so wrong in so many ways," he said. "It's an innovative thought, but what I'd like to see is another option under consideration, one that’s pretty conventional.

"When the public health officials greenlight resumption of normal activity, say, around July 1, they simply start a season and play through September on a half schedule. That's really about the only way I can see going forward with baseball because everything else is just too big a risk over too long a time.”

Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Sports With Art Thiel with iTunes orGoogle Play now. You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.