For weeks, the reports have indicated that when baseball returns it likely will do so only in select areas. But the latest update from a national writer gave the first glimmer of hope that the Giants could return to Oracle Park as soon as June.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale, citing three league executives with knowledge of ongoing talks, wrote Tuesday that MLB officials have become "cautiously optimistic" that the sport will resume in late June or early July. MLB would have at least 100 games in a shortened regular season, Nightengale reported, and he added: "Not only would baseball be played, but it would be played in their own major-league ballparks, albeit with no fans."
That last part seems a certainty whenever the game returns, and matches what California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier Tuesday. Newsom outlined a four-stage approach to re-opening California with major restrictions. The third stage includes sporting events.
Of course, this is where we pump the brakes a bit.
There was no timetable given by Newsom, and Nightengale's optimistic report came just one day after the Bay Area extended shelter-in-place restrictions through May 31. Several large Bay Area companies have gone further than that, telling employees that they won't be back in offices until June at the earliest. A ramp-up that would get games back at Oracle Park within a few weeks of quarantine ending would seem optimistic, but it at least is a bit of hope, and this plan likely would face fewer objections from players.
The previous plans that were made public called for players from all 30 teams quarantining in Arizona, or in Arizona, Texas and Florida. Those drew objections behind the scenes and several stars -- including Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw -- publicly disagreed with the Arizona plan.
You would likely find much more support from players if they're allowed to live in homes and rentals near their stadiums and continue to be around their families. There would be complications, including travel, but MLB is willing to go to extreme lengths to get a season in.
Nightengale reported that one proposal is to split both leagues into three 10-team divisions. Here's what the West would look like: Giants, A's, Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, Astros, Mariners.
That would certainly add a twist to a shortened season, although it's a bit too early to start thinking of the Giants and A's battling it out for a playoff spot. There are countless hurdles, and league officials are changing their plans constantly. They will have a better idea of a timetable as states begin to re-open and determine if a second wave of coronavirus-related illnesses and deaths is coming.
The latest report provides the most logical plan yet, and perhaps the most hope. But Newsom, a few minutes after announcing his re-opening stages, provided a reminder of how difficult this all will be. He tweeted that California is up to 45,031 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and wrote "Science, data, and public health MUST drive our decisions."