COVID-19 Roundup: Will We Want to Watch Sports in Person Again?

This is the latest installment of a daily series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

Good morning, and thank you for visiting FanGraphs! We here at the site hope that you and yours stay safe this weekend. Here’s the latest news on COVID-19 as it relates to the game:

Will Americans Return to Live Sports after COVID-19?

If there’s been any consistent messaging from major sports institutions like MLB over the course of this crisis, it’s the assurance that live sporting events will eventually return. But a new poll from Seton Hall University is raising some questions about the nature of that assumed return — will anyone show up? Per the poll, 72% of respondents wouldn’t attend games before the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and only 13% would feel as safe attending as they had before the pandemic; 74% believed that live sporting events would remain canceled through the end of 2020.

A study published in the medical journal The Lancet, using modeling based on the outbreak in China, suggested that social distancing measures will need to continue until a vaccine is developed in order to avoid a second wave of cases. An unwillingness to attend sporting events with thousands of other people in the absence of one thus seems entirely reasonable. That doesn’t exactly track with some of MLB’s more ambitious contingency plans for getting the Show back on the road this year, and seems likely to have repercussions well beyond 2020. This pandemic has been a life-altering crisis for so many people; it’s no wonder that it might cause people to re-evaluate their relationship to sports and sporting events.

Attendance at MLB games has been in continuous decline over the past decade, and while some of the factors behind that decline can be addressed concretely by the league and its teams, widespread anxiety caused by living through a pandemic probably can’t. It will be interesting to see how sports leagues respond to this anxiety when, somewhere down the line, live sporting events do return.

Major League Players to Form MLB: The Show League

It isn’t live baseball like we’re used to seeing, but players from all 30 major league teams are forming an MLB: The Show league to try to pass the time until baseball returns, per ESPN’s Joon Lee:

The regular season begins Friday and will last through April 28. Games will take place every one to two days with three to five three-inning matchups played each game day. The postseason is scheduled to begin April 30, with a World Series played on May 2. The postseason will feature the eight best teams, with a best-of-three format for the first two rounds and a best-of-five format for the World Series.

The games will be played on individual player’s Twitch accounts, though there have been some discussions to broadcast matchups with the league’s broadcast partners. The full list of players involved can be found in Joon’s article, but some highlights include Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., Gavin Lux, and Jeff McNeil. MLB, the MLBPA, and Sony are donating $5,000 to Boys & Girls Clubs in each team’s city, with the winner of The Show World Series’ city receiving an additional $25,000.

Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Postponed

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced Thursday that its 2020 induction ceremony, previously scheduled for June 20 in St. Mary’s, Ontario, will be postponed until further notice. Those who were to be inducted include former Blue Jays and World Series champions John Olerud and Duane Ward, 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau, and Expos radio legend Jacques Doucet. It is disappointing that such an excellent class will have to sit out a year, but the June timeline was simply unworkable.

The more well-known Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, which is currently closed to the public, is scheduled to induct its 2020 class on July 26. Intended honorees include Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons, and Marvin Miller. But the outlook for Hall of Fame Weekend 2020 proceeding as planned isn’t bright, and Cooperstown, like many other small, tourism-driven towns around the world, is bracing for a difficult year ahead.

Mariners to Hold Blood Drive

The Mariners, in partnership with Bloodwork Northwest, will be holding a three-week blood drive at T-Mobile Park. All appointments will be scheduled online to ensure compliance with social distancing orders, and all participants will receive two tickets to a future Mariners game.

Despite the pandemic limiting appointment available, blood donations are still urgently needed. Washington State, and the King County area in particular, was one of the first places in the United States to be hit hard by COVID-19. Since it’s unlikely that T-Mobile Park will play host to any Mariners in the near future, it’s heartening to see the space going to a good, important use.

Webster Garrison Still Battling COVID-19

Former major leaguer and current manager in the A’s organization Webster Garrison is still on a ventilator. Garrison, who appeared for the A’s in 1996 and has coached and most recently managed the Class-A Stockton Ports, was hospitalized on March 28. His fiancee Nikki Trudeaux has been asking people to keep Garrison in their thoughts with the hashtag #WebbyStrong.

RJ is the dilettante-in-residence at FanGraphs. Previous work can be found at Baseball Prospectus, VICE Sports, and The Hardball Times.

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So, will Derek Jeter have to wait a year to give his speech at Cooperstown? If so, it’s exactly how it should have been all along.