Basketball and Baseball Diverging Paths
In many ways, the NBA and Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19 back in March was a bellwether for attention being given to the virus. And not just for basketball and sports, but for the U.S. in general shutdowns basically started from there.
Months later now, the NBA and other sports are trying to get back on track. MLB and baseball are trying to follow suit. In several ways, the two sports could not be more different in their handling of the situation and the restart. While success is not guaranteed for the NBA, MLB on the other hand faces a largely uphill battle with its plan. Here is a summary of how the two leagues differ in their plan to explain why baseball is having so much trouble.
Ownership and Player Relations – Baseball for much of its history has led the charge in labor relations between players and owners. It is at time contentious with strikes, and that history hurt MLB in the past few months. Next year’s labor discussions hung over the plans for 2020 like a dark cloud. This led to months of back and forth between the league/owners and the MLBPA debating the number of games and salaries that wasted valuable time that needed to be spent on putting together a safety plan for a season. While the NBA doesn’t have perfect owner and player relations, the two sides were much quicker in aligning their hopes for the season so a plan could be focused on. A united front of top players gathered early to focus on aligning their position (despite some detractors since) on resuming the season.
Bubble Versus No Bubble – The NBA focused its plan for a 2020 playoff with a bubble in Orlando. This allows for greater control of players and staff and isolation to avoid the virus as best as possible. It has also led to comical discussions over the “airplane” meals players are being fed. MLB however will not operate in a bubble. Games will be played in the teams’ normal stadiums with opposing teams having to travel. This obviously raises the concerns and chances of infections greatly putting cancelling the restart at risk. There are already infections as well as players choosing to opt out, and this trend continuing could eventually lead to no season happening.
While both leagues obviously face challenges as well as the very real risk that either of their respective plans crash and burn. However, it is obvious that the planning and coordination put in by the NBA places them in a better position for success.