Opinions on hot temperatures, hotspots and the start of the 2020 MLB season

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

The world rewards confident people, especially confident men. It would be nice if a neutral party kept score on people’s outsized confidence and then they had to wear it, like a W-L record. Of course, people are very good about telling you when they were right about something – cue Jackson Browne singing, “you forget about the losses, you exaggerate the wins.”

That Charles Bukowski quote at the top is something that occurs to me often here lately. There are people who are extremely confident that we can “reopen” the country with minimal damage. We have people who are extremely confident that reopening now will cause irreparable damage. Me? I’m full of doubts.

My little corner of the world has been relatively untouched with Covid deaths. My area could open back up with minimal damage. But there’s more to the world than my little area and there is little doubt that if my area opened up and others didn’t – people from outside would come here to participate in our “openness” and likely increase our chances of infection exponentially.

And then we consider MLB looking to begin its season in early July. Maybe it’s fine to do it in, say, Pittsburgh. It’s hard to imagine it being fine in New York. And we hear all of these plans, including ones where games will be played in teams’ home stadiums, and it just boggles my mind that the powers that be would attempt a quarantine in New York to keep however many players, execs and support personnel from being infected by others in an area that has been hit so incredibly hard.

Now, we hear about players saying – wait, this sounds too risky to me. Who is anyone to tell a guy to go out and play baseball like normal in a pandemic? And that’s only part of it. Because people want the players to take a pay cut and to accept a salary structure that they’ve rejected for decades – all to save the billionaire owners from not making as much money as they have previously.

Won’t someone please think of the billionaires and corporate owners?

When news first broke about starting the 2020 season, the most prominent idea was the “Arizona plan,” where all of the teams would be in one (relatively) confined area and look to play in the Spring Training homes and perhaps college stadiums of the area. This seemed to me as something that could work. When it was brought up how hot it would be in Arizona in the summer, my reaction was for the players to suck it up and tough it out. Look, no one doubts that it would be uncomfortable. But you can hydrate and use sunscreen and reasonably protect yourself against 100-degree heat.

Anyone who watched games when artificial turf parks were common remember seeing the thermometers showing on field temps of 140 degrees or so. Everyone who played on those talks about how they were hot. No one said it couldn’t be done.

An NPR piece in 2009 on artificial turf – in this case a soccer field – had this to say:

To understand just how hot the synthetic fields can get, we visited Riverside Park in Manhattan with Geoffrey Croft, founder of NYC Park Advocates.

Carrying a thermometer, Croft stood at the periphery of one of the turf fields that’s used for a soccer camp.

In the shade it’s 86 degrees. But out in the center of the soccer field where kids are playing soccer, the sun is directly overhead. Holding his thermometer waist-high, he gets a reading of 160.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The turf fields of today are so much better than the turf fields of yesterday. Would it be hot playing a day game in Arizona in July? Yes, without a doubt. Will it be the 160 degrees that kids in 2009 played on? That seems doubtful to me.

The original proposal asked players to perform in hot temperatures. The current proposal asks them to play in Covid hotspots. My opinion is that asking players to perform in New York or Chicago or L.A. at this point in time seems like a step too far. And even the smaller cities are not necessarily safe. Who’s to say how opening up early in Georgia and Wisconsin will affect games in Atlanta and Milwaukee? Maybe it’s fine. But you won’t see me making that wager any time soon.

Rays pitcher Blake Snell, the 2018 A.L. Cy Young Award winner, is one of the most notable players so far to make public his concerns about playing in the pandemic. Mike Trout expressed concern earlier in a general way but to the best of my knowledge has not commented publicly on the latest proposals floating around. Surely there are others out there, too. And to be honest, some of Snell’s comments seem tone deaf or poorly expressed. But his lack of eloquence doesn’t eliminate the legitimacy of his ideas.

My overwhelming preference is to have MLB play here in 2020. But the last thing I want is to see the season start only to have to pull the plug because the plan was poorly formed. Can any plan be created to make having a 2020 season make sense? This seems to be a point upon which reasonable people can disagree.

Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on in this discussion, we have to recognize that we have no precedent to use to inform our answer. It’s fine to have an opinion and to express said opinion. But given the circumstances, perhaps everyone should dial down their confidence level.

4 comments for “Opinions on hot temperatures, hotspots and the start of the 2020 MLB season

  1. May 15, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Brian I lived in Arizona for 7 years. We would have our baseball practices at 7 am. You do not want to be out there at 1 pm on a July day. You can fry an egg on the pavement. Is it 160 degrees? I don’t know but the pitchers would be sweating profusely just in their warm ups. This is why sports in the summer time is always played under the lights after 7 pm. You could play day night games in Chase Field since it can be enclosed. Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe is an excellent place to play games (hotels nearby and very close to the airport) but they would have to be after the sun goes down. Unless you’ve played in the heat of Phoenix you really don’t want to try it. Its desert and the summer temperatures can go as high as 115-120. On the plus side you don’t have to worry about rain outs since monsoon season ( one week ) in February is not a problem. MLB cannot afford rain outs or rain delays so to me this best solution would be isolation in a few locations in the US. Teams can procure hotels and isolate themselves protecting the players, coaches and team officials. To have “home” games is just absurd, insane and to be quite honest asking for trouble. I don’t see California allowing baseball to be held so what do you do then?

  2. NYM6986
    May 15, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    To me the season is lost. Why should players risk their lives when I wont risk attending a game? It’s easy to sit back and watch from the safety of my home as grown men, who will be essentially quarantined, are playing a sport and we are anxiously looking to see who will be the first infected player. I’m depressed enough. #LGMseeyounextyear

  3. JImO
    May 17, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    It seems to me that when you start thinking this through, it doesn’t take long to see problems. Playing the outfield is ok. Playing the infield is ok until you start having runners on base. The pitcher on the mound is ok but what happens when the pitcher has to cover first base? Homeplate is an issue. The dugouts are an issue. The bullpens are an issue.

    Even without fans, you have to manage security staff, health staff, ground-crew staff, and media staff.

    That’s just the majors. If you have the major league teams playing, how do we handle the farm clubs?

    • May 18, 2020 at 12:36 am

      Jim I think there will be no minor leagues not even AAA. That’s why I think having 30 players on your MLB rosters and perhaps 5 to 10 players on a “taxi” squad like the NFL is the only viable option. As for playing on their home fields, what team wants to travel to Atlanta, Miami, Texas or New York where the infection continues to rise or have had devastating results? What about rain outs? I think MLB can play a 120 game schedule if they don’t have to travel with no off days if they have expanded rosters and do not have travel in their schedule. Play in 3 states where the probability of rain is removed.Nevada, Arizona and Colorado? You eliminate the need for make up games and travel and have the playoffs there as well.

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