According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the window for a safe Major League Baseball season is rapidly shrinking.
In a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says he would advise MLB to wrap up its entire season — postseason included — by the end of September, in order to curb risks associated with a second wave of COVID-19.
“If the question is time, I would try to keep it in the core summer months and end it not with the way we play the World Series, until the end of October when it’s cold,” Fauci says. “I would avoid that.”
The concerns expressed by Dr. Fauci have reportedly been echoed by several MLB owners who are against the MLB postseason stretching into November when a second wave of COVID-19 could hit the United States. The players have proposed playing through November. The owners have consistently proposed an October postseason. That Fauci is now advising against October baseball could ultimately spell doom for any type of season.
“Even in warm weather, like in Arizona and California, we’re starting to see resurgences as we open up,” Dr. Fauci said. “But I think the chances of there being less of an issue in the end of July and all of August and September are much, much better than if you go into October.”
Shrinking window for MLB
Reports on Tuesday suggested six to eight MLB owners are against the 2020 season happening in any form. Will that number grow based on Fauci’s recommendation?
Money issues have left MLB and the MLB players association so divided they are only communicating through letters. At this point, there are no active negotiations. There’s only finger-pointing after a parade of proposals and counter-proposals did nothing more than raise tensions to new levels.
Time was already running short. If the owners decide that October baseball isn’t an option now, the window might already be closed.
It’s not just about squeezing in 50 or 60 regular season games, which is something Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to implement. It’s about installing proper health and safety protocols. It’s about organizing training camps. It’s about giving fans a product that isn’t decidedly less than. It’s about making it all make sense for everyone involved.
That will all take time. Time that doesn’t exist in Fauci’s estimation.
“The likelihood is that, if you stick to the core summer months, you are better off, even though there is no guarantee. … If you look at the kinds of things that could happen, there’s no guarantee of anything. You would want to do it at a time when there isn’t the overlap between influenza and the possibility of a fall second wave.”
Is there a best-case scenario?
It gets more difficult to identify a best-case scenario with each passing day.
If your only concern is getting baseball back on the field, then Rob Manfred implementing a 60-game season tomorrow might be the best-case scenario. It would still be a tight fit, but at least you’d get a season out of this, consequences be damned.
If the health of the players is your primary concern, then passing on 2020 and looking forward to 2021 might be the best-case scenario.
If the overall health of baseball is your primary concern, then the process to resolve this mile-long list of grievances and hard feelings must begin immediately. Not just to make baseball in 2020 a reality, but to save baseball from itself.
That’s where we’re at today. Now we wait to see what tomorrow brings.
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