(670 The Score) Powerful MLB agent Scott Boras believes the time is nearing for baseball to work toward a return as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and he has a functional isolation plan to do just that.
"MLB players can lead the way to give America a solution and data and a method that maybe other employers can use as they bring their employees back and create kind of a functional isolation that allows us to address the public health issue and also the social determinants of health issues," Boras said on Inside the Clubhouse on 670 The Score on Saturday morning.
In Boras’ mind, the initial focus needs to be on getting players medically cleared by isolating them and consistently testing for the coronavirus back at spring training sites. From there, they could begin practicing and preparing for the regular season. The schedule is less of an immediate concern in his view.
Boras envisions pitchers and catchers returning first to spring training and quarantining. Players would be tested daily and then split into three groups – those who test negative, those who display antibodies for immunity and then those who test positive. The idea would be to first create a group of virus-free players to practice daily and quarantine those who test positive for two weeks.
More virus-free players would be added to the healthy group as position players gradually follow in reporting to camp and going through the same process. Regular-season scheduling details can be worked out as the players’ preparation continues, Boras said.
Boras has a framework for the MLB schedule in mind, and it includes playing all games in big league ballparks -- initially without fans -- in states in which the coronavirus mortality rate is low. Games wouldn’t be played in New York (Yankees, Mets), Massachusetts (Red Sox), Pennsylvania (Pirates, Phillies), Michigan (Tigers) and possibly other states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, he said.
He cited 17 MLB ballparks across nine states that have "very, very low mortality rates."
"You can use any variety of them to create a functional league,” Boras said. “You could set up a California league and have five ballparks with a very low mortality rate. Our hospitals are not in any way burdened. It’s just a different world than it is in the Northeast. You could have six teams at every ballpark and I could give you a schedule – you could play 14, 15 games a week until the rest of the country clears up to the level of the states with the low mortality rate.
"The key thing for me right now is focus on getting the players ready."
Boras has shared his plan with baseball’s other power brokers. Owners and MLB officials are still looking at his idea and gathering more information on it and many other return-to-play proposals.
Boras acknowledged it’s "a very difficult ask" for players to isolate from their families for a month or more, but he added the feedback he has received from his clients is that they’re willing to sacrifice. Boras made no mention of a season-long quarantine for players from their families, which has been a concern across the game that was previously raised.
His clients also understand the health risk that comes with his proposal.
"I went through with all of our clients, and certainly they have told me this is something they want to go forward with, they’re willing to do it," Boras said. "They see the benefit of potentially setting up a control. When you set up controls in medicine to study what we do, to do it the most safe ways, it’s still a risk. But the players are willing to do it."
Boras believes the discourse and dynamic has changed a great deal from March, when MLB paused spring training and its season.
"Our country got a lot of negative, false data and our medical professionals and their models were just not accurate at inception," Boras said. "Now we’re getting true American data as to this virus and in the medical community, we’re starting to really understand where the concentration of the virus is."
Boras referenced epidemiologist Arthur Reingold of UC Berkeley, saying Reingold has extolled the virtue of a regionalized approach in which states and municipalities "should give increasing flexibility to locality."
Boras believes we’re reached the point in our country in which it’s time to spark the economy by lifting some restrictions in the states that haven't been hit as hard by the pandemic, and he wants MLB to fit in where it's safe to do so.
"In America right now, we have a bit of a dilemma," Boras said. "And that is that there’s a large contingent, obviously they’re focused on the public health issue and that in effect is the isolation of the population to literally ... to reduce the spread of the virus. The other aspect is the social determinant of health, and that is economically, having nutrition, working, being isolated with domestic violence, psychology, depression, all of the things that returning to work and functioning would bring. To harmonize the two aspects of it is you have a definite need to adhere to the needs of the public health situation and also to take a very close look at the social determinant of health so that we can return and create (jobs). We have 26 million people that are unemployed. And so in doing that for baseball players, really America needs a model. They need a model. How do we return to work? How do we do it? How do we mitigate the risk of the public health issue?
"Baseball players medically are rather unique because most of them have a five- to 15-year history in which they are examined daily … You know all their underlying medical conditions. Plus they’re at the age that we know that this virus has the lowest mortality rate. They’re also in first-class physical condition. They don’t have any underlying medical conditions, which we know from this virus provides the lowest mortality rate."