A little more than a month into life in the vortex of coronavirus, we all have some new routines. For some of us, it’s putting on a mask to go to the store. For others, it’s an extra dog walk, just to get a few more minutes of fresh air in the day.
For Major League Baseball, it’s coming up with cockamamie plans to make the 2020 season happen, and floating those plans through the media.
That would be the same Texas where Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday: “The growth of the coronavirus in Texas is slowing by people staying at home, by people reducing interaction with others. God’s hand is working through the scientists across this great nation by coming out with fast, innovative drugs that would lead to therapeutic remedies. … Put your faith in God. God will bring you through this and Texas will once again rise up to be the number one economy in the United States of America.”
That would be the same Texas where the Austin American-Statesman reported on Monday: “Even as Gov. Greg Abbott eases restrictions meant to stymie the spread of the coronavirus, Texas is falling far short of what medical experts say are necessary benchmarks for testing. … Some counties appear to have had few, if any, tests administered — suggesting that politicians may have little grasp on the movement of the virus through vast rural areas.”
It’s testing that is the keystone of any safe plan to return anything to normal, and the lack of it is why it’s dangerous for Anthony Fauci to make it sound like such a return is something even worth thinking about right now.
Oh well. God has it under control. God and Rob Manfred, apparently.
As Evan Grant wrote in the Dallas Morning News report about this latest plan: “Texas could offer an attractive option, too. While teams would need to drive as much as two to three hours in Florida to visit certain sites, Texas can offer two major league stadiums: Globe Life Field in Arlington and Minute Maid Park in Houston. There are also numerous minor league facilities such as Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco and The Dell Diamond in Round Rock. There are also numerous top-tier college facilities, if those are made available.”
So long as we’re tracking bus travel times, it’s four hours between Arlington and Houston, although presumably travel would be limited between the two cities. Either way, that’s hardly the dumbest part of this.
The dumbest part is very much that Texas is a state where the governor has decided that despite his acknowledgement that people “staying at home” and “reducing interaction with others” are what’s slowing the spread of the virus, it’s okay to stop doing those things if you just “put your faith in God.” Texas is a state where the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, went on television on Monday night and actually said, “there are more important things than living. … I don’t want to die, nobody wants to die, but man we gotta take some risks and get back in the game.”
For MLB to “get back in the game” with Texas, that would mean going to Houston, a city of 2.3 million people. It would mean going to Arlington, with a population of nearly 400,000, sitting inside the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, which has a total population of more than 7.5 million. That metroplex includes Frisco, with its population of almost 200,000, while Round Rock is a city of more than 100,000 people within the Austin metro area, with a total population of 2 million.
All of those millions of people live in a state where the government is telling people to get back out into the world, even though all scientific evidence says that’s a terrible idea that will lead to a lot more people getting sick and dying. The only reason for Major League Baseball to go to Texas, other than trying to calm down an idiot president who just wants sports on TV, is that Texas would make itself available. That’s also the reason that the Major League Baseball Players Association should say no way in hell to this idea.
Tony Clark, for his part, did tell USA Today last week, “Everything centers around two things, the amount of testing and a vaccine. And how it can be mitigated in the public arena as much as the professional arena.”
None of that is happening in Texas, a place with nearly 30 million people who are about to be at heightened risk, at a time of year when the weather is starting to become less than conducive for a condensed baseball season that would necessitate day games.
It’s already in the 80s every day in Houston, with temperatures expected to reach the low 90s by the end of this week. While the major league stadiums in Texas have retractable roofs, the minor league parks and “top-tier college facilities” are open-air. Do you know how many home games the Astros played last year with the roof open at Minute Maid Park? Seven. Out of 81.
Without even considering that MLB has no answer about what happens in a condensed season if players test positive for coronavirus, and without even thinking about the risks to the community posed by the fact that even “empty stadium” games require lots of people working beyond the players, these ideas are terrible just for where they’re thinking about going, an inhospitable climate where the leaders are demonstrably idiots… although there’s plenty of evidence now that those words might just describe Major League Baseball itself.