Dr. Anthony Fauci hoped to spend 2020 watching the Washington Nationals attempt to defending their first World Series title. Instead, the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been thrust into the national spotlight because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, he’s a voice that many are calling on to ask if it’s going to be possible for there to be a 2020 MLB season, and what form it would have to take.
“There’s a way of doing that,” Fauci said to Snapchat’s Peter Hamby on ‘Good Luck America’. “Nobody comes to the stadium. Put [the players] in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled. … Have them tested every single week and make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family, and just let them play the season out.”
Earlier this week, ESPN‘s Jeff Passan said that the 2020 MLB season may be “Arizona or bust.” Under the Arizona proposal – a story that Passan initially broke last week – a second round of Spring Training would begin at some point in May, with the hope of starting the season in early June or July. At least to begin this plan, all games would be played throughout Arizona, with “players, coaching staffs and other essential personnel sequestered at local hotels.” Essentially, team employees would be treated as though they were jurors on a high-profile case – they could leave their hotel to go to work, but would be cut off from having any in-person contact with anyone that wasn’t sequestered.
While Dr. Fauci may believe that the framework of the Arizona plan or one similar makes some sense from a medical standpoint, convincing players and team employees to leave their families – or sequester their families – for an indefinite period of time may be an impossible sell.
RHP Zack Wheeler, who the Phillies signed to a five-year/$118 million deal this offseason, has already publicly objected to the Arizona proposal. Wheeler’s wife is pregnant with the couple’s first child and is due in July, when teams would presumably be sequestered. Wheeler has said he will not miss the birth, which would mean if this proposal goes through, the Phillies may be without their top offseason signing for part or all of the 2020 season.
There are some, like Phillies icon Cole Hamels, who have said they will sequester from their families if that’s what it takes for there to be a 2020 season. Hamels may be in the minority, though. Even for those who don’t have families, it may be unfair to ask them to sequester for months on end.
Fauci didn’t address the Arizona plan specifically. If he had, it would be interesting to know his opinion on whether that would be the best location. While Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, would host quite a few games, there would need to be a ton of outdoor games. The average high temperature in Arizona in July is 106 degrees.
The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that Arizona will reach its peak in COVID-19 cases on April 22, and deaths from Coronavirus on April 23. If MLB wants to move forward with the Arizona proposal, presumably they will have to make a decision relatively soon. The trajectory of the virus will likely make that difficult.
None of this is meant to say that Fauci isn’t correct from a medical standpoint in trying to evaluate the best scenarios. But if the most ideal solution involves players leaving their families for an extended period and regularly playing in desert-like conditions, perhaps that’s an indication that there may not be a 2020 season at all.
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