Fans may be ready for baseball to return, but they aren’t exactly ready to return to baseball.
In the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, fans were asked if they were MLB players, would they feel comfortable playing the 2020 season. Roughly two-thirds of responses said yeas, they would play.
I voted yes here. The proposed protocols, to be honest, seem considerably better than most players are likely getting on an everyday basis, in terms of monitoring and health-care. Done properly, the risk is likely not going to be much more than they face on an everyday basis, unless they have gone entirely into personal lockdown. Unless they intend to stay there until a vaccine is available to everyone, exposure is inevitable. But if the MLB employee survey is anything like accurate, the majority of people who catch the disease will experience no symptoms at all.
However, when asked if they were ready to return to the game themselves and watch a game in person, things changed dramatically. Despite being ready for games to start, only 42% of fans said they would attend a game live this year.
For now, it seems like a longshot that fans would even be allowed to attend this season. At best, plans have been discussed that would only allow severely limited amounts of fans, all spaced throughout the stadium. And, of course, they won’t have the stringent testing and health-care regime available to players. I’m perfectly fine with watching them on TV; a sparse crowd isn’t enough to justify my presence.
While fans are overwhelmingly ready for the game to return, they don’t necessarily trust the man in charge. Less than 40% of voters have faith in MLB commissioner Rob Manfred going forward. Manfred’s popularity was in trouble before the pandemic hit, receiving heavy criticism for his handling of both the Houston Astros scandal and various comments made during the offseason.
This is tricky, because it depends on your definition of “best interests”. What you and I, the players and the owners consider “best” are likely three entirely different things, and trying to juggle them is likely a no-win proposition. It certainly doesn’t seem that players or owners have the game’s “best interests” at heart, based on their behavior in this crisis. I voted yes here, though it’s really too vague a question for any definitive answer.
Manfred’s popularity has taken such a hit, he’s now seen as a worse commissioner than his predecessor, Bud Selig.
I still think Manfred has done better than Selig. The latter’s complete abdication of responsibility for the entire PED debacle is something worse than anything Manfred has done to this point. The COVID crisis is certainly not something for which Manfred can be blamed. But I reserve the right to change my opinion down the road, if there’s a labor stoppage at the end of the current CBA - though if this pandemic has had one benefit, it’s that this now seems considerably less likely.
To sign up for Reacts and have your voice heard each week, sign up here.