Playing Major League Baseball in empty stadiums feels wrong. And the thought of Eloy Jimenez playing in empty stadiums is even worse.
"I don't know. For me, playing with fans is motivating. That's why I want to play every single day hard for them and I enjoy talking to them," Jimenez said Tuesday. "I don't know what it's going to be (like) to play without fans there."
But it might be necessary. The ESPN report that emerged late Monday night detailed the possibility of MLB starting its season with all 30 teams in Arizona, playing in spring training stadiums and Chase Field. Teams would essentially be quarantined -- existing only in their hotels, team buses and stadiums. There would be no fans in the stands and players would not be able to stay with their families.
It seems crazy, but nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic is normal. Baseball has always been something that unites us, and frankly, any kind of baseball sounds good right now. Credit to Major League Baseball for getting creative with a possible return. If they can keep the players safe and the MLBPA is willing to play under those circumstances, then it's worth a try.
"We're all used to playing those back-field games, chain-link fence league games," White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said last week. "We've done it coming up through the minor leagues. We even do it in spring training, at times. I don't think it has too much an effect. If things matter, if games matter, I think we'd be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I'd definitely prefer to have fans. We'll see what we'll be able to make happen."
Major League Baseball issued a statement Tuesday morning neither confirming or denying the idea of playing the season in Arizona. That's because it's just an idea, albeit a serious one. Serious enough that players must think about if they're willing to do it.
"It's going to be hard because you're going to be away from your family," Jimenez said. "100 degrees is really hot. But if that's the plan, I'm going to do it. I just want to play."
The weather is certainly a factor. Chase Field has a roof and could hold multiple games per day, but anything outdoors would have to be played at night. Even then, it will be plenty hot in the desert in the evening.
Every idea comes with a plethora of questions and there are few concrete answers in an unprecedented situation. Players will still be together in clubhouses. What happens if just one player tests positive? Will there be enough tests that MLB isn't taking them away from people who need them more? And even if this is all possible, how long would players realistically need to get ready for the season? Jimenez said his workouts at home have been limited to "just doing a couple pushups, jump rope and hitting in the back of the yard. That's pretty much it."
"Honestly, how long is spring training, a month and a half? Maybe (we'll need) a month, couple weeks," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said last week. "Around the same time period. Let's be realistic with pitchers' arms. Being realistic about the situation, not forcing anything. When we're ready to go I think they'll make a good decision, they'll take care of us, I think we'll be just fine."
A big reason why players likely would be willing to sequester themselves in Arizona - and away from their families - is because their salaries will be prorated based on how many games get played. Owners would lose out on gate revenue, but there is plenty to gain for baseball by putting real games on television, especially if it's the only sport going.
"I just want to play baseball," Jimenez said. "If they decide to play here (in Arizona), I'm going to enjoy it, but we want to play (a) normal regular season, like travel and all that. And play for our city, you know?"
The feeling is mutual. Of course everyone would prefer to see Eloy Jimenez playing in Chicago. But if it's on television from Arizona, we're still going to enjoy it.
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Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago