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One-on-one: Is MLB hosting fans a good idea?

Yes, let them in! – By Brandon Younan, contributor

Major League Baseball is having a tough year, just as we all are. 

Its total attendance was cut from 68.5 million fans last year to zero this year. Then, this shortened season started with multiple outbreaks on teams that almost shut down the season, but MLB bounced back, its protocols tightened up and teams even traveled with compliance officers to enforce rules. Commissioner Rob Manfred has postponed games after one positive COVID-19 test, and it’s worked; there have not been any more outbreaks.

As MLB settles into its bubbles in Arlington and San Diego, the players are still following the same protocols, but the difference is that there will be fans in attendance. 

There are about 11,500 tickets available for games in the NLCS and World Series – roughly 28 percent the capacity of Globe Life Field. Game one of the NLCS had about 10,700 fans in attendance. Fans are putting faith in MLB to keep them safe, and although we are still in the middle of a pandemic, this is a good idea.

Although money shouldn’t be the focus, MLB lost about $3 billion this year without fans, so this is an attempt to recoup some of that. This doesn’t mean the league isn’t taking the virus seriously. 

For example, they started by selling tickets in groups up to four, known as pods, limited to people who live together. The league has also implemented new procedures for fans such as ticket pedestals so fans can scan their digital tickets. There will be a no-bag policy, pre-packed concessions, condiments and utensils. Doors will be propped open and unsold seats will be tied up to prevent fans from filling in closer to each other. All transactions will be cashless, and tailgating is prohibited.

Fans are only allowed to remove their masks while actively eating or drinking, and the league is even implementing a “three-strike” policy for fans that do not adhere to mask guidelines, providing two warnings and then an ejection. MLB is trying to make fans in the stadium comfortable but safe while trying to show the world that they can manage this. 

As long as fans follow the rules implemented, and MLB is on top of those violating rules, the league will have brought fans into the bubble without any issues. 

No, this is a bad idea – By Nick Zoll, contributor

Due to the imminent threat of COVID-19, it would be best if Major League Baseball said “no” to allowing fans at the Championship Series and World Series.

Unlike the regular season, where various teams (St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies) had games postponed as a direct result of team personnel testing positive for COVID-19, the postseason has had the opposite effect.

With the Wild Card round and the Division Series both in the rearview mirror, it’s worth noting that no playoff games were postponed or canceled, and having no fans in attendance for those games is likely a major reason.

Allowing fans to enter the stadiums and possibly spread the virus would be problematic in its own right. And if a player got infected? That would potentially mean that this player’s teammates could contract the virus as a result, and a whole ballclub could be quarantined in the midst of October baseball. Imagine the disappointment if a series between two highly-competitive teams ended up being postponed because of exposure to COVID-19. 

In theory, bringing in fans for the home stretch of the postseason can be successful. Major League Baseball could require fans to take mandatory temperature checks or symptom questionnaires in order to prevent symptomatic spreaders. In addition, the enforcement of mask-wearing would be crucial. 

With that being said, Major League Baseball can’t afford to risk it all. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly applies in this case; if the absence of fans during the playoffs has helped control the virus among clubhouses and players, then there should be no need to change the philosophy. 

The planning of the unprecedented 2020 MLB season has been rigorous and, at times, seemed impossible to execute. With momentum on its side, MLB shouldn’t allow fans to possibly jeopardize a well-deserving team’s chance to be crowned champions.

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