March 16, 2020 – Exclusive: Jim Breslo asserts MLB players have ‘essential jobs’ to buoy the nation’s psyche
The draconian measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus may be wise, but they are wreaking havoc on the world economy. The measures could cause a worldwide depression, which in turn could ultimately cause more damage to human health than the virus itself. To avoid this, it is critical that, as these measures are put in place, we not panic. It was panic that caused the Great Depression. We need to “Stay Calm, and Carry On” as best we can. We could use some role models to help us do that – and I suggest that Major League Baseball players step up and play that role.
MLB first announced that all baseball would be suspended for at least two weeks. This originally pushed back the opening day of the regular season from March 26 to April 9. Its decision followed similar actions by the other major team sports. Monday Major League Baseball announced that opening day has been suspended until mid-May. But I suggest that baseball, absent there being a dramatic escalation of the virus, “step to the plate” and announce that it will in fact commence on April 9.
Andrew Heaney, the Los Angeles Angels pitcher who was to be the starter on opening day, expressed to ESPN what the players are feeling: “It’s the national pastime, and from an emotional standpoint, it’s been there for people and been a source of entertainment and distraction and all that stuff from all of the bigger-picture things that are going on. And I think that that’s something that guys really enjoy, being able to be that, having that source of pride in what you do and what it means to people. For that, it’s sad. And for the people that are gonna be out of work and might not have other options or other places to turn, that sucks.”
A return of baseball would demonstrate some return to normalcy, serving the critical role of calming the public and the markets. Of course, the absolute safest thing to do is for everyone to stay home, but everyone staying home for an extended length of time is extremely destructive to the economy. And, it simply is not possible. We need doctors, health care workers, policemen, reporters, grocery store workers, farmers, truck drivers, factory workers, etc. to do their jobs. These are essential workers. Just as these workers are accepting some risk by doing their jobs, I posit that baseball players should do the same, because their jobs at this moment are just as essential.
They should not play in front of crowds. And, naturally, they should take necessary precautions while in the clubhouse. But the sport is well suited to be played safely. Players have little contact with each other. Physical exertion is less than with other sports. And the crowd plays a more limited role than in other sports.
Baseball has languished in recent years as the game has gotten longer while attention spans have gotten shorter. But no other sport plays to America’s psyche like baseball. It has been played for well over a century, through the Great Depression and World Wars, and is the only game played every day. We need to see people on our televisions at home “staying calm and carrying on.” Baseball players competing on the field can play that role.
If they play, baseball may reclaim its place as “America’s Game,” and these players will truly be our heroes.