Scott Boras accepts the reality that Major League Baseball won’t begin playing games for at least another couple of months.
But that hasn’t stopped the agent from proposing his “functional isolation” idea to hasten the resumption of play as soon as the medical and scientific communities deem it safe to proceed.
In broad strokes, the plan would be for coronavirus-free players and staff — around 60 people per team — to gather in 30 separate bubbles of isolation at or near their spring training bases in Florida and Arizona.
No families, no visitors; the team stays in one hotel near its spring training facility, shuttles back and forth together, and eats all meals at one of the two sites.
Everyone is tested daily. Anyone who comes up positive for coronavirus is isolated until cleared.
Boras has a bachelor’s degree in industrial pharmacology and has taken a keen interest in educating himself on COVID-19 since its outbreak in Wuhan, China, last year. He doesn’t want to come across as cavalier when it comes to the mortal threat posed by the virus or suggest that there’s a rush to implement his plan.
He believes his plan is epidemiologically sound and medically safe.
Pitchers and catchers would ramp up their workloads first, followed by position players, in a three- to four-week program. Boras said such a time span worked for MLB in 1995, when a strike ended April 2 and the season began on April 25.
“We can prepare a system that provides inspiration and do it in a responsible way that aligns with the standards of isolation," said Boras. "I think it’s something that could be considered.
“We have many entities operating — our government, our police forces — in a ’functional isolation’ manner, and I think baseball should be no different.”
Boras said the modified Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues would have an extra dash of restricted movement.
“At nights, there are no restaurants, they’re not outside,” said Boras. “They’d just have a limited amount of people they’re around. The players are going to have to agree with that so we are responsive to the protection of the spread and also following stringent isolating purposes.”
Two teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets, play in relatively remote locales, Port Charlotte and Port St. Lucie, Fla. They would have to endure longer bus rides than others to stay in suitable accommodations.
“Players might have to sacrifice a little bit with their isolation with where they stay," said Boras, "but they’re playing ball.”
When the players are baseball-ready, games can resume — almost certainly to be played in empty stadiums.
“With functional isolation, we would be able to titrate the game into an earlier arrival because we’re going to do it before fans can attend, but we get it on television and we are able to get more games in and have more of a competent season,” said Boras.
“But the main thing is we’re able to provide an inspirational product to America as we go through a difficult time.”
The total number of regular-season games is unclear without a start date and knowing how many doubleheaders would be played, said Boras. But the season would extend through all of October, with the playoffs to take place in November at neutral sites, likely in domed stadiums.
“If we can get functional isolation going, we can get out there and get something going a little bit earlier, but I’m not ready to say we’re ready to get going with this," he said. “We need more response from the scientific community to see where we’re at.”