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In MLB’s ‘Arizona plan,’ buy-in from players could prove tricky

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Clayton Kershaw: “There’s a lot of things to figure out before I go quarantine myself with my team for four months.”

Los Angeles Dodgers v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

We’ve talked over the last week how baseball’s proposed “Arizona plan” is a tough sell logistically, and how ensuring the safety of everyone involved is paramount in whatever plan the sport chooses if and when the 2020 season might open.

But the key factor is getting the players on board with the plan, and it will be a hard sell for some to be separated from their families.

Clayton Kershaw, in an interview Monday on SportsNet LA, had reservations about the Arizona plan.

“I don’t see that happening. I’m not going to be away from my family and not see them for four and a half months. I just talked about Cooper changes so much in one week, so to miss four months of his life right now, I’m just not going to do it,” Kershaw said. “There’s a lot of things to figure out before I go quarantine myself with my team for four months.”

Kershaw has three children, including a newborn, so it’s understandable he’s hesitant to leave them for months at a time.

“I can understand how maybe with someone with no family, maybe it’s their first few years, would be okay with any type of baseball being played. I understand that,” Kershaw said. “From my personal vantage point, I think there’s something special about Major League Baseball. You start taking away layers of it, whether it’s fans in the stands, big baseball stadiums in these big cities, travel, different things like this you take away, it takes away a little bit from the meaningfulness of the games.

“I’ll hope we can come to some type of solution fast, for sure, and that I can actually see my family. That’s my only request.”

Kershaw told John Hartung in the interview he didn’t know if his opinion was in the majority or minority in the players union, which must okay any plan for baseball to resume.

Justin Turner, for comparison, has no kids, and in an interview Friday with MLB Whiparound on Fox Sports, had a different take.

“It’s very early in the idea phase of how we can get this thing done, and there will be a lot of things that have to happen logistically, but I’m at the point where I don’t care. Put me in a hotel room for six months, I just want to go play baseball. Get this thing going, figure out a way to play as many games as we can, and get a postseason in,” Turner said. “Obviously we want to be safe, and we don’t want to go forward putting ourselves at risk, but when that day comes I don’t care where I have to go, I’m ready to go play.”

Various plans have been discussed in addition to the Arizona plan, including possibly splitting the league into the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich at The Athletic reported Tuesday on a potential plan, perhaps for later in the season:

For example, some in the game speculate that if government officials deemed the virus under control in certain cities with domed or retractable-roof parks, the sport might be positioned to resume in certain regional hubs. Six teams could be assigned to five areas – say, Phoenix, Miami and Tampa Bay, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston – then spend two to three weeks playing each other in round-robin style before relocating to another facility.

Rosenthal and Drellich did call that regional hub plan “overly optimistic,” but that’s kind of where we are now. Jeff Passan on ESPN speculated Monday, “When it’s all said and done, it seems like it’s going to be Arizona or bust for Major League Baseball.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred noted on Fox Business on Tuesday morning that this is still early in the discussion process.

“The only decision we’ve made, the only real plan that we have is that baseball is not going to return until the public health situation has improved to the point that we’re comfortable we can play games in a manner that’s safe for your players, our employees, our fans, and in a way that will not impact the public health situation adversely,” Manfred said. “Right now, it’s largely a waiting game.

“We don’t have a plan, we have lots of ideas. What ideas come to fruition will depend on what the restrictions are, what the public health situation is. But we are intent on trying to making baseball a part of the economic recovery and sort of a milestone on the return to normalcy.”