Pick a day, hear about a plan.
An executive from a major league team said on Monday evening that his organization had been briefed on the Arizona plan, the Arizona/Florida plan and the Arizona/Florida/Texas plan. Having not heard of the Texas portion yet, I pressed further and there were not many particulars. Not long after CBS Sports reported the viability of Texas being part of a possible MLB start-up.
Those familiar with the ongoing discussions, though, caution that all plans are fluid and that MLB’s decisions will be based on what municipalities give them the green light to try to play and when. As one team executive said, “Who knows what the state of things will allow and also what will be necessary to do if and when the opportunity arises.”
Translation: MLB is still spitballing a lot of possibilities, but is firm on none until public health officials provide a roadmap on where and how to play.
However, it does seem the only-Arizona proposal is dimming as a possibility. There are many reasons for that, including playing games exclusively in the Western time zone, the hot weather for outdoor games in summer, teams not wanting to be away from either their spring or home bases if those areas are possible to be used and players hesitant to lock into a biosphere-type situation in one locale.
It also remains possible MLB will start spring training 2.0 and perhaps a regular season in one, two or three locales and keep expanding if it gets the nod from health officials to move back to familiar sites. In that scenario, the Arizona/Florida plan or the Arizona/Florida/Texas plan could provide a launch point to the season.
The Arizona/Florida plan is basic if it could be pulled off — to essentially put the 30 teams in their spring training sites, which among other things would provide familiarity with local health officials and not force any club to prepare without its regular surroundings/equipment/modern technology installed specifically for that site.
The Arizona/Florida/Texas plan would offer benefits, particularly for TV. MLB, if it returns, would like to broadcast games all day to a nation that still might have many inside homes hungering for live sports. Florida, Texas and Arizona represent the Eastern, Central and Western time zones and more easily allow a stream of games throughout the day, when MLB could seek ways to make up for lost revenue by, among other things, trying to get more national games on the air.
The Rangers were set to open their new stadium, Globe Life Field, which like Houston’s Minute Maid Park 257 miles away has a retractable roof. That would allow, if one or both were in use, multiple games to be played in one venue daily regardless of weather. The Dallas region also, for example, has minor league stadiums and the chance to, say, use fields at the University of Texas, TCU, etc., since only the condition of the field will matter and not capacity as spectators will be forbidden at least at the outset, should games be played.
In the three-site scenario, the league could, say, split up into three 10-team subsections with those clubs playing regularly with the hope that better health conditions would allow moving clubs to the different locales or moving them more permanently back to their regular season home sites.
All of this, of course, is at the mercy of how the country progresses through the virus and — for example — allows the kind of gatherings that would allow major league teams to prepare, play and get to whatever site is necessary. And, to this point, MLB has only brainstormed, awaiting the information that would allow them to specifically focus on one or two plans.