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Skeptical fans are skeptical

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MLB’s social distancing rules are largely considered tough to enforce

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Arizona Diamondbacks Summer Workouts Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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The 2020 season is just over a week away from finally getting started. But with the return comes hard decisions for those most directly put at risk – the players.

Players were given the opportunity to not play this season. However, not all players have the same options. Those who fall into the “high risk” category can opt out of the season without losing any more of their salary and would still get credit to their service time. Players who aren’t high risk are still allowed to sit out the season, however they will forfeit their 2020 salary and will not accrue service time.

To date, only a small fraction of players have announced they will skip the season, but there have been a few big names. A star player making that decision could alter not only his team’s outlook this year, but the outlook of the entire league due to the compressed schedule.

Even with those risks, though, fans seem to be understanding of a player making that hard choice. According to the latest SB Nation MLB FanPulse, 86 percent of fans say they would understand if a key player on their favorite team decided to miss the 2020 season.

The remaining fans were split, with eight percent saying they would be mad at baseball if that were to happen and five percent saying they would be mad at the player. Personally, I can kinda see both sides. I certainly don’t blame the likes of Buster Posey or Mike Leake for choosing not to play this year. But there are a lot of people who do not have the financial ability or even opportunity to have the option to stay home, and frustration at those who do is perhaps understandable.

Despite 63 percent of fans saying if they were a MLB player they’d participate in the season, it’s clear fans understand the risks. When asked if they believe the MLB social distancing rules – these include no spitting and not being allowed within six feet of an umpire – more than two-thirds said they were unrealistic to enforce.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this works out. Players, coaches and umpires are going to have to unlearn an entire lifetime’s worth of “normal” behaviour, and I can see there being a learning curve. I’m pretty sure I saw Torey Lovullo standing closer than six feet from the home-plate umpire in last night’s intra-squad scrimmage game, for example. There are bound to be some infractions, especially in the early games, as everyone adjusts to what has to become the “new normal.” Maybe they need to have a klaxon mounted in the stands, which goes off whenever a monitor detects a violation of protocol...

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