The 2020 MLB season is suspended due to coronavirus concerns, but a few crazy options could let fans have their baseball and watch it too.
Delaying the start of the 2020 MLB season to avoid spreading the coronavirus (known officially as COVID-19) is the right call. But what if there’s a way to circumnavigate the pandemic and play on?
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred likely believes that he and his minions explored every conceivable option before deciding to call off the league’s Opening Day plans. They clearly didn’t consider the wildly creative measures that desperate times necessitate, though.
Sure, every other major sports league is shutting down, but that doesn’t mean that MLB has to passively follow their lead. If Manfred and company won’t step up and innovate a solution, someone has to give it a go.
So, here are five ways MLB could play through the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Enter the age of esports
Baseball is suspended…so this gamer took the Astros into his own hands in MLB The Show 20. pic.twitter.com/lFF1TWUwmN
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) March 13, 2020
In lieu of delaying or canceling months worth of games, MLB could simply move the action online with “MLB The Show 20.” It’s unorthodox, but just hear me out.
Each team could pick its best gamer to represent the entire organization. Representatives could square off online in live-streamed matchups with millions of fans tuning in for all the animated action.
The league could even include the players’ audio streams of uncut trash talk.
Outcomes of the games would determine teams’ records until the on-field contests return, meaning the fans would be able to experience basically the same level of excitement as they would have at the ballpark had COVID-19 not intervened.
Playing meaningful games online would also present a great opportunity to add to the Houston Astros’ punishment for orchestrating a digital sign-stealing scandal in 2017 (and probably beyond). The league could give all Astros opponents cheat codes that allow them to know exactly what pitches Houston hurlers will throw.
The resulting blowouts would be delicious, unlike the Astros’ feelings toward the taste of their own medicine.
2. The 10-foot-pole option
here’s a near empty baseball stadium pic.twitter.com/Y8kELcO5Cb
— Sam Stein (@samstein) April 28, 2015
Another possibility is to only sell every other seat in the stadium, enforcing a safe distance between fans. To make up for the difference in revenue, teams could sell branded masks, hand sanitizer, and reacher grabbers.
Teams like the New York Yankees that easily draw 50,000 fans could move games to football stadiums to accommodate the new no-touching format.
The athletes would also need to distance themselves from each other, and MLB could implement temporary new rules to ensure that happens. For example, tag outs could be replaced with throwing the baseball dodgeball style to obtain putouts.
Yes, there would be more injuries from such pegging. But even the most athletic and highly paid among us must make sacrifices in these dire days.
Also, this emergency situation is the perfect chance to replace human umpires with automated rules enforcers, all in the name of safety.
3. Spray me out to the ball game
QOD: How do you stay cool on the golf course? Iced towels? Misting fan? pic.twitter.com/0OeQIwqezc
— PGA TOUR LIVE (@PGATOURLIVE) July 5, 2019
MLB organizations could harbor a coronavirus-free environment in their stadiums by installing misters throughout the stands. Instead of blasting fans with refreshing water droplets, the teams could use an alcohol solution for constant, full-coverage disinfection.
Misters could also be installed in the dugouts and at all the bases, where players are most likely to come into contact with each other.
And there’s one superfluous benefit to this solution that could even boost tickets sales. The incessant alcohol spray, which is typically a 75% ethanol solution, would theoretically get everyone slowly, steadily, and perfectly buzzed.
4. MLB Hazmats en masse
— 95.3 WDAE (@953WDAE) August 27, 2019
To avoid the alcohol abuse suggested in the previous option but still continue playing, teams could pass out hazmat suits.
Even the players could don hazmat gear. The hitters are already used to wearing suits of armor and gloves when they step up to the plate, so there won’t be much of an adjustment required.
Concessions would take a huge hit, because it’s kind of difficult for people to eat with their faces fully covered. But the visual spectacle of stadiums full of fans in full safety gear would be well worth the loss.
5. Take the show on the international road
— FOX Sports Cleveland (@FOXSportsCLE) September 12, 2019
Coronavirus has not yet overrun the entire planet. Places like Taiwan have just a handful of COVID-19 cases, which could allow for public gatherings like baseball games to be held in relative safety.
Full disclosure: I live in Taiwan, and would relish the opportunity to attend MLB games for the first time in nearly a decade. But the truth is that if MLB wants to avoid even barely affected locations, there are countries that have yet to report a coronavirus case.
Private jets and strict screening processes would ensure MLB players don’t infect whatever undiagnosed regions they enter.
Obviously, none of these solutions are practical. But they could come in handy if the league ends up pushing the season back too far, and fans start clamoring for their baseball fix.