There is a potential avenue for MLB to have a season that includes some fans in its stadiums this year, albeit not nearly at full capacity, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Just don’t bet on it, the country’s top expert on infectious diseases told YES Network’s Jack Curry on Monday.
Fauci reiterated that MLB’s idea of having a shortened season with games played in one or a handful of cities without any fans and with strict guidelines is a more feasible way to play during the coronavirus pandemic. But another version of the plan could limit the number of fans in a stadium, seat them spread out to observe social distancing rules and make sure they are wearing masks, Fauci said.
“That is possible,” Fauci told Curry on an episode of “Yes We’re Here.” “But as you said, and I affirm what I have been saying, it’s going to be the virus that determines what the timetable is. Because if we get the virus under really good control and certain regions of the country can get gradually from the gateway to the phase one to the phase two to the phase three, it is conceivable that you may be able to have some baseball with people practicing physical separation. Namely, you don’t pack a stadium.
“I think quite likely, although it’s always dangerous to predict, I think it’s more likely that you’re going to have more of a television baseball than a spectator baseball.”
MLB is exploring multiple plans aimed at salvaging its season, with the “Arizona Plan” gaining the most attention. All teams would play at multiple sites in Arizona while living in something of a bubble — where everyone is tested, there is limited interaction outside of the bubble and games are played without fans.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League has started back up without fans in stadiums and the KBO League in South Korea is set to do the same, with exhibition games beginning Tuesday under a strict set of guidelines.
While Fauci said “it is impossible to predict” under what scenarios he could see MLB returning this season, he was more certain that it will look different if and when it does come back.
“Given the extraordinary efficiency of transmissibility of this virus, I don’t think we can say with any confidence that in the middle of this summer, we can say, ‘OK, July 4, let’s start the season in a truncated season exactly the way we would do it normally,’ ” Fauci said. “Because there’s going to be a new normal for a while and it’s not going to be just a few months. It likely will cycle around even into next fall and winter. Hopefully it’ll go way down.
“People who know more about baseball structure than I do have said it, but I think it’s reasonable. You could either have a situation where you get the group of players and you put them in a few cities, you make sure they’re not infected, you test them so that they don’t infect each other, and you have baseball — as much as it’s tough to say — in a spectator-less environment. You have people playing in an environment in which people can watch it on television.
“The revenues are not going to be the same as when you have a packed stadium like [Nationals] Stadium in Washington where I go to, but I think having them play on television is certainly better than nothing.”