Even if MLB continues to play, should we continue to watch?

The recent group of positive Covid-19 tests among MLB players has prompted plenty of conversations between us at A’s UK about the issues at stake.

Should the season be going ahead given the state of the virus across the U.S.? Should we, as fans, be participating in the season at all if we feel it is wrong for teams to be playing?

These are difficult questions to wrestle with, but we thought we would try to work through them by posting some blogs about our current thoughts.

First off, Dom gives his honest take on where he is with following the A’s right now.

Last Sunday the Phillies hosted the Marlins, and it would appear that 4 players in that game had tested positive for COVID-19.

It is alleged that the players of both teams were involved in the decision to play the game, which is something I guess, but that it was allowed to go ahead seems from a distance as negligent at best.

Where was the MLB, what were the centrally imposed rules and how could such a disastrous decision be taken? Since Sunday neither team has played a game and several more Marlins players have tested positive as well as a handful of staff in the Phillies organisation.

We touched upon this in our latest podcast and I explained for the benefit of UK fans that while English football returned against a back drop of falling infection rates, some areas of the USA are currently at the peak without similarly enforced lockdowns in place. There are 9 day waits for tests in cities in which baseball players are tested daily. ICU beds are beyond capacity, so if you live in one of these cities you can’t be tested, you can’t be treated and yet baseball teams are rocking in and out of town.

To further exacerbate the issue the USA doesn’t have the same social security safety nets of the UK and many will have to work to keep themselves fed. The picture is bleak, and the politics toxic, a significant minority don’t believe in the virus and think that wearing facemasks to protect fellow citizens is a political choice.

MLB also hasn’t helped itself, they have minimised travel to some extent by keeping the West in the West, East in the East and Central in the Centre. However they could have gone much further, the A’s make two trips to Seattle, LA, Houston and Arlington. Surely longer series could have cut the travel in half.

Further is enough being done to bubble teams from the societies they visit and represent? I would argue not, surely to achieve a safe environment to play and reduce the risk to the wider society three bubbles could have been made at central facilities somewhere to enable the games to take place. It’s too late now, damage has been and in all likelihood continues to be done.

I’m a fan from another continent so I could wave away the backdrop and continue to watch, but I care deeply for family and friends in Oakland, Philadelphia, Atlanta and New York and I hold the MLB to the same bar I would hold my local sports leagues like the EPL to.

I recognise arguments in support of sport continuing, I even benefit from the positive mental health aspects it brings. At points during the last few months sport has been what’s kept me going, but I think the situation has to be kept under review.

There’s jobs too, the sport is keeping people in employment and as I’ve already highlighted, there’s little in the way of social security and owners can’t be trusted to behave responsibly (see our pod on minor leaguers!). We’re not where we were a few months ago when this was first suggested and I can no longer support baseball being played given the circumstances in some of the communities in which it’s being played.

What are we getting for all this risk too? The sporting integrity is becoming increasingly questionable. It seems unlikely everyone will manage to play the same number of games, and 7 inning double headers surely don’t mean the same as full games? Indeed is a 60 game season representative in the same way a full season would be?

It feels inevitable there will be another situation like the Marlins one unless MLB improves the central instructions to teams and it’s impossible to really measure the impact of this first outbreak. Any action now could be too little too late without more serious government intervention too.

I’ll always support the A’s when they play, but I don’t support the fact that they’re playing right now. On balance it feels irresponsible that baseball is being played given the backdrop.

I’ve spoken to Hannah and Matt at length on this today and we’re not all aligned on this, and while drafting this the Brewers and Cardinals game has also been postponed.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and suspect reaction will be mixed as opinion and politics are. My judgement is probably clouded by being placed back into local lockdown last night and also by the beer I drank as a result.

I am conflicted anyway because while I believe the game shouldn’t be being played, I’m not sure I’m quite ready to boycott it.

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