This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.
Preliminary results from a recent study of antibody tests among New York City residents revealed that 13.9% of tested people came back positive for COVID-19 antibodies. That’s good news in a couple of ways. It’s another test that suggests that, at least preliminarily, the actual fatality rate may be lower than the observed case fatality rate (CFR). This happened with H1N1 in 2009, which also saw the estimated fatality rate, post-outbreak, come far below the observed CFR.
It also suggests the health care system might be able to continue to treat patients, if not in ideal fashion, at least avoiding the worst of experiences of countries like Italy, though reports of the experiences of front-line health care workers across the US, and particularly in places like New York City, serve as a grim a reminder of why it is so important to stay home.
What it means for the return of activities like organized baseball, however, remains to be seen, as such a return is obviously far more dependent on widely available tests for current infection and a decline in fatalities and hospital resource usage in states like Arizona and Florida.
And please, do not inject yourself with bleach or Lysol, whatever the president says!
MLB The Show is MLB The Show
Perhaps one of the only businesses thriving right now, at least of those that don’t make toilet paper, is Sony Interactive Entertainment San Diego, the developers of MLB The Show 20 for the PlayStation 4. Without much real baseball, you’ve seen a lot more exposure for the game than I can ever remember. We now have major league players streaming games against each other live, with ESPN and other networks set to broadcast select games from the MLB The Show Players League. The first broadcast was last night, with the next one coming Sunday night.
Korean Baseball Organization, ESPN at an Impasse
One of the bits of news that excited me last week was the prospect of seeing more KBO games broadcast live in the United States. If you haven’t watched one of their broadcasts before, the energy and excitement the crowds bring is quite refreshing, even if you do not speak the language (I don’t). What comes across is a league in which fun appears to be the priority, a sometimes sharp contrast with what is often an over-serious sport here. Theme songs, chants, bat flips — anything goes!
So it was disappointing to hear that there were hiccups in ESPN’s attempts to broadcast KBO games in the United States to help fill the programming void. Unfortunately, the catch appears to be that ESPN wanted the rights to the games for free. KBO baseball is established in South Korea and while a whole new audience is tempting, it’s a business and a league that is far beyond the point of needing to “work for exposure.”
COVID-19 Outbreak in Venezuela
While individual major league players have largely been spared from the effects of COVID-19 (though not always their family members), not everyone in baseball has been so fortunate. In Nueva Esparta, a small state consisting of three islands off the northern coast of Venezuela, there have been 93 reported cases of COVID-19, 83 of which are connected to the Roberto Vahlis academy. This makes up nearly a third of Venezuela’s reported coronavirus cases. The Phillies signed an outfielder, Yhoswar Garcia, out of the academy just last month.
More Teams Extend Benefits
In Wednesday’s COVID-19 roundup from my colleague Tony Wolfe, there was a handy-dandy reference chart of which teams have extended non-player employee salaries and for how long. Since Wednesday, the Texas Rangers have reiterated that there would be no layoffs or furloughs until at least the end of May. The Mets are at least formulating a plan for June and beyond, past their previous May 31 commitment. And the Pirates extending their employment guarantee to May 31 also just missed our publication time.
NHL Moves Closer to Reboot
There’s safety in numbers (well, maybe not), and MLB now has more company when it comes to leagues trying to find creative ways to continue their suspended seasons. The NHL is exploring their own version of baseball’s Arizona/Florida solution. The NHL initially tried exploring a neutral site plan, but found the logistics too difficult to overcome, so the current plan under consideration involves a number of regional “hubs” at which teams would play.
How Taiwan Restarted Baseball
This isn’t really new news in itself, but there was a highly detailed piece describing the steps that Taiwan needed to take in order to make starting the season practical. It’s going to take a lot more to get baseball going than just confining players to hotels. Hygiene will be especially important, and could present a challenge for a sport known for so much spitting and licking of hands.