By Evan Grant
The Dallas Morning News
The biggest public criticism on still-to-be-opened Globe Life Field: It’s more multi-event center than baseball temple.
A multi-event center is exactly what Major League Baseball needs right now if it is going to save the coronavirus-threatened 2020 season. That’s how Arlington has emerged at the center of MLB’s latest attempt at workshopping a truncated season.
The latest concept, according to multiple sources, is to consider three hubs in different time zones around the country to house about 10 teams apiece. Initial conversations centered around an Arizona-only plan, then expanded to Arizona and Florida. Adding a Texas hub, which became a more realistic discussion Monday, would give Central Time Zone teams their own hub and would ease the burden on spring training sites.
Arlington, you might say, has never looked better.
Could this work?
As with everything these days, let us get back to you on that. A lot depends on the next steps in combating the pandemic, but the state of Texas, with its eagerness to reopen the economy, has positioned itself to be on the forefront of the return of pro sports. The PGA Tour is scheduled to resume in June at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, and NASCAR, Indy Car Racing and Texas Motor Speedway are talking about June as well.
As for the baseball plan, here are some things we can exactly take a stab at:
When’s the season going to start?
It’s still an if, not a when, but a best guess might be to give teams a heads up in mid-May, begin a shortened second spring training in June and maybe open right around July 4. Reports have suggested baseball could play into December.
How would the Texas plan work?
The idea would be to house 10 teams in the state. To do so, there would be the need to play five games a day. It’s conceivable that two games could be played in Arlington, two in Houston and one at a minor league facility such as Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark, Round Rock’s Dell Diamond or Corpus Christi’s Whataburger Field.
Why not Globe Life Park, too? Isn’t it just sitting around?
The reconfiguration of Globe Life Park for football removed a dugout and walled off a section of left field that makes it unrealistic for baseball games. And retro-fitting it is unlikely, too, as the Rangers have deals with FC Dallas and Arlington ISD to use the venue for soccer and football.
The park, however, could be used for workouts and batting practice, and there are four major league quality clubhouses located inside, which is significant.
Why is that significant?
Each of 10 teams would need a base for its “second” spring training and workout facilities. Between Globe Life Field and Globe Life Park, at least a half dozen teams could have regular accommodations. It’s likely that six teams would operate out of North Texas and another four out of Houston.
So, the six teams in North Texas would just play each other over and over?
No, once “spring training” ended, all 10 teams would play one another, which means there would be some travel, which means all of this would hinge on the idea that there would not be a quarantine situation in place. Several high-profile players have expressed reticence about playing in a quarantine situation because it would keep them away from their families.
Who would play in the Texas League?
Figure all the Central Time Zone teams: The Rangers, Houston, both Chicago teams, Kansas City, Minnesota, Milwaukee and St. Louis. Colorado, in the Mountain Time Zone, would likely be asked to join. For a 10th, maybe Detroit, which has its spring training site in Lakeland, Fla., and is somewhat isolated from other teams in Florida.
But if you are doing all this with no quarantines and with traveling, why not just have teams play at their home sites?
This plan wouldn’t eliminate travel, but it would greatly reduce it, which would also reduce some risks. It would also greatly reduce travel costs, which is not an insignificant consideration, given how much revenue owners have already lost.
Secondly, there could be some issue with local governments on allowing teams to play in their home stadiums, even without fans. Consider the situations in New York, California and Michigan.
How many players on a roster?
It doesn’t matter if it’s the normal 26, 28 or 30, teams are going to need some kind of depth pool to draw from in the event of injuries or poor performance. And the minor leagues, as we know them, aren’t likely to be an option this year.
This is where the plethora of top-tier facilities in Texas, including the colleges, really comes into play. In addition to the major league rosters, these depth rosters of 20-25 players would need places to train and play. Consider the possibilities of including the minor league parks, the independent league parks in Grand Prairie and Cleburne and college facilities at TCU, Dallas Baptist, Baylor, Texas, Rice and Houston.
What’s the playoff setup?
Hey, let’s figure out if the regular season will work. And no, we don’t know how many games would make for a viable season. But if each team played the other nine teams in its league 12 times, you would have a 108-game season. That’s still ambitious.
Will the players go for it? Don’t owners want them to reduce salaries?
Ah, yes, that’s the roughly $5 billion question. Also above my pay grade.