How to restart the baseball season sustainably

You may have read that a number of early games in the season have been cancelled due to many of the players testing positive for Covid-19.  There is talk of the season being unsustainable, but it seems a simple remedy has not yet been tried — dock a player 30 percent of his salary if he tests positive.  That should limit the degree of nightclubbing and carousing, keeping in mind that the already-infected are probably some of the worst offenders and they have been “taken care of.”  Furthermore, the players would have a strong incentive to monitor each other, not wanting to be on the receiving end of an infection from a teammate.

While that arrangement presumably runs counter to the collective bargaining agreement, that agreement can and should be revised if season cancellation is the true alternative.

If need be, the fines can be redistributed to the players who never test positive, thus keeping total compensation constant.

Incentives don’t always work, but if you haven’t even tried them something is amiss.  Do I hear “35 percent”?  “Forty”?  “Thirty-seven percent and three lashes”?

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This is basically what the NFL is trying to do.

We’ll see

Six foot flag football.

60 game season...does anyone seriously care whether it goes ahead?
if it does this WS trophy will come with two asteriks
the difference between full cream and skim milk is obvious...

What's going on at 12:23 when the 2d and 8c are discarded?
Is it something only done at certain places?

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When an employee brings covid into the office, the store, the practice, the factory, the university, etc., punish the employee for her carousing by docking her salary.

Since covid cases have spiked down here I've spent lots of my time advising clients about how to respond when an employee is diagnosed with covid. While I advise clients on the guidelines issued by CDC, our primary concern is the safety of the employees. None of my clients has suggested punishing the employee who brought covid into the workplace.

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Of course, the Straussian reading of Cowen's post is that troglodytes who refuse to comply with basic standards of human decency, such as wearing masks and staying away from bars, funerals, reunions, and church, where covid is spread, deserve to be ostracized or worse. As for students and professors returning to the campus to spread the contagion, off with their heads!

Even now, rayward can't manage to say the word, "protests."

https://www.foxnews.com/us/activist-cancels-protests-south-carolina-after-some-demonstrators-become-infected

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There's nothing crazy or inconsistent about having different standards for professional athletes versus regular people. One group has massive resources for entertainment, supporting themselves, and clever methods of social distancing. The other has little choice but to go into work, and does not have the resources to entertain themselves in a safe way like the rich do (homes on private beaches, boats, private aircraft, large yards, sophisticated and expensive toys and electronic entertainment, etc.)

Athletes also can bring down an entire industry through irresponsible actions of just a few, bringing with it a lot of social harm, while most regular people can be easily replaced. The meat processing plants are back open, it's not like they need to cancel the meat season because they missed too much of it.

> One group has massive resources

Some do, but remember that the median career is something like 2 years @ the rookie salary. A nice nest egg starter, but you're still going to have to work for 30 more years, just like everyone else.

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For sports the issue is sex. These men are at the top of the ladder in terms of income, attractiveness, and fame. They also happen to be in their physical prime which means high libido. Create a bubble and test their partners.

Is it too late to become a professional athlete?

For most people, the window for being a professional athlete closes at conception.

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Yeah, having sex leads to having kids and being a father to your kids means you'll be more likely to get infected from your kids.
https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-1315_article
"We showed that household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was high if the index patient was 10–19 years of age. "

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This from USA Today seems a bit snippy though - "German soccer officials will gladly share their knowledge and experiences, even their medical protocols, with other sports that want to resume playing.

The one thing they can’t share? A sound government strategy to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and communal buy-in of protective measures.

As the chances of playing football this fall in the United States look increasingly grim, Germany’s soccer league has completed the season that was interrupted by COVID and is looking ahead to starting its next one in September – possibly with fans in attendance. England’s Premier League will wrap up its season this weekend.

Soccer even returned in Italy and Spain, the European countries hit hardest by the pandemic."

Pay cuts sound much more effective in America. Can we force sports players to send their kids to school too? Maybe enforce that with a pay cut as well.

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Cool, now do smashing windows/arson/throwing bricks at people's heads

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Probably will not work b/c players are a 'union protected class.' This is the same as Steroids... if they really wanted to stop the use of steroids and drugs all the commissioner would have to do is to start disbarring from playing (not suspending, disbarring for ever). Do that a couple of times and there would be no more steroids/drugs.

The bigger problem is that it's hard (likely impossible) to really determine if you caught it on-the-job vs. doing something improper vs. bad luck.

The better method might be to pay a bounty of ~10% of the fine for authenticated pictures showing the player or coach doing something improper.

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With 20 positive cases, it will be interesting to see whether Marlins have any future outbreaks or whether remaining players have some sort of cross or natural immunity, assuming season lasts much longer. Will also be interesting to see how many infected players are asymptomatic or mildly enough symptomatic to return to play.

Also, how many of the Marlins players that tested positive visited bars vs. caught the disease from teammates that visited bars? When I first heard about the large numbers of Marlins testing positive, I thought that was evidence that one infected player would likely end up infecting much of the team, i.e., baseball protocols weren't effective in preventing super-spreading. Not good prognosis for baseball. Now, that other teams have only a small number of positives, however, that appears less certain. Is baseball per se unsafe or just visiting bars?

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No, its not baseball per se-Korean league has gone through 70 games without incident. Well, maybe spitting which is endemic in baseball.

English Premier League games are more physical than baseball, there was a lot of hugging in goal celebrations-no spitting tho, They travel, stay in hotels and made it through 6 weeks.

Three of St Louis Cardinals four positives are among "staff" not players. Miami clearly violated protocols including taking the field when they knew they had positive tests,

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The incentive is already in place, and far more draconian — if the season is canceled, no one gets paid. If this worked, the players would already have “a strong incentive to monitor each other.”

This is really smart except the use of "draconian." That doesn't make it draconian, it makes it high stakes. Someone pushes me all in on a poker tournament that's not draconian, it's a money move. Please, for the love of god, stop using "draconian" for everything, it takes away from great points.

Normally I would agree, but this is all in the context of Tyler's draconian suggestion (though he didn't use the term). Thus a comment that goes "you want draconian, I'll show you draconian" is all right with me.

However the original comment doesn't account for the free rider problem. If driving my SUV is contributing to global warming, are my neighbors monitoring me and berating me for contributing to the climate crisis? The number of athletes is much smaller; small enough that maybe that sort of mutual self-regulation might work, but though some teams have close tight social connections among themselves, I doubt those connections cover all of the players. As a group they've had some notable disagreements among themselves, e.g. CBAs that favor superstars over marginal players or vice-versa, Karl Malone about letting Magic Johnson play in the all-star game with HIV, etc.

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The best option (other than just resuming play as normal) is to split the league into a Wuhan division and Survivor division, with each team volunteering a farm team as its representative in the division it's not currently playing in.

The idea is that, when you test positive, you're transferred from the Survivor division to the Deep State division. The infected players resume play as normal when they are able; no worries about spreading it further. At the end of the season the division winners play each other for the title, as the presidential election will be held by thrn, making the question of the virus moot.

What would make this infinitely more watchable than the half-COVID, half-SJW clusterfudge the major leagues are currently trying to pass off as legitimate competition is if the transferring players hit the waiver wire for that division only. You can imagine the daily excitement over the testing regimen as fans wait to see if, say, LeBron tests positive and gets claimed by the Minnesota T-Cells (I forgot to mention, the Zombie division has topical team mascots).

One wonders how players might alter their behavior in such a scenario. It wouldn't be surprising to see athletes who previously feigned concern participating in "protests" and other risky behavior to try to test positive and land on a team making a title run.

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Ummmm, because the teams cannot do that unilaterally, and there's no reason players would accept that because they are human beings and it might very well be the team's fault they got covid, or from their kids, or family, or grocery store. This ranks as one of the stupidest ideas in baseball history, congratulations, and the idiots commenting about clubbing have taken the jokes too literally.

Exactly. Whoever wrote this doesn’t understand the MLBPA.

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Is that legal?

No. Tyler sometimes forgets the group with dark skinned individuals are humans with rights (in this case, the ADA). Good point, I missed it in my first pass through because there is so much wrong with this.

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I have quit giving a shit about the sports leagues reopening. I now hope they all fail, and if it is COVID-19 that helps deliver the blow, I hope the entire workforce gets it and continues to test positive for the next five years.

There was the story about one player, I forget who, who has tested negative 6 times, but never two times in a row. That is probably telling us something important.

This is where I'm at, ultimately, and I'm sure many other Americans feel the same way.

People realized during the shutdowns that they didn't miss the distraction of sports. And in typical woke fashion, instead of trying to produce a superior product for their customers, the leagues wasted time catering to the whims of overpaid prima donnas before mashing BLM and other leftist propaganda in their fans' faces.

People tune into games and fill stadiums to watch an earnest competition, not to be lectured or to financially support multimillionaire athletes and even richer owners/execs. Same for sports "journalists" who talk politics first and sports second. Hopefully they'll all be looking for jobs this time next year, maybe they can get a taste of what millions of normal Americans experienced when they were pushing for perpetual shutdowns.

The most recent relevant data point was the cancellation of the entire 2004-2005 NHL hockey season because of a labor dispute and lockout. Fans were bitter, but all was forgiven almost immediately after the sport came back.

Attendance didn't suffer, in fact it went up. Two thirds of teams increased their average attendance in the first post-lockout season compared to the last pre-lockout season, and of the teams that didn't, only two saw their attendance decline by more than 8%.

The NHL retooled their public relations and even changed rules to make the game more fan-friendly (same for the more recent lockout that shortened a season). They are also notably sandbagging woke causes (along with golf).

On the other hand, the NFL had only recently clawed back a ratings drop of nearly 20% in the wake of the Colin Kapernick debacle. They have gone all in on BLM, of course, and we shall see if fans have changed their attitude since then.

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It'd be interesting to see if you're correct about Americans' attitude toward sport. In Italy the restart of football saw a bit of a drop-off in interest, because there were no fans and the bars weren't open so most people had no way of watching the games (Serie A & B is on subscription channels only), and because it was resuming a season on pause that people had begun to forget about. By the time bars reopened, Juve had the league pretty much sewn up so there wasn't much interest left.

However, the new season started yesterday in Scotland, the first competitive games for five months. The evening highlights programme had one of it's highest ever number of viewers. Then again, Scotland is a bit of an outlier as it has the highest football fans per capita in Europe.

In Europe I don't see interest in sport dying down any time soon.

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You're too confident in your assumption that 1) this would work and 2) the league and owners would agree to go to the table with the players posing the ultimatum of "accept this or cancel the season."

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The league doesn't need to do this. The union can do this without involving the league.

In the case of baseball, during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 the major league regular season was played as usual with no restrictions on attendance and the world series was also contested in both years, the 1919 fall classic being the "Black Sox" scandal involving the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

Conversely, the 1919 Stanley Cup series was started, but cancelled and never completed because players were being laid low by the flu. One of them died a few days later, and another was permanently weakened and died several years later.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1919_Stanley_Cup_Finals

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"the fines can be redistributed to the players who never test positive"

Wouldn't this incentivize players who haven't tested positive to have their teammates infected?

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>dock a player 30 percent of his salary if he tests positive

More proof that Tyler Cowen has never, ever left his house.

Has he heard of unions? Seems very unlikely.

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This would simply incentivize way more players to opt out of the season. Why not set aside 10% of TV revenues instead to be distributed among players who never test positive by the end of the season?

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So if I read this correctly (Straussian), they should go ahead and cancel the rest of the season?

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It’s children’s games, played mostly by people of impeccably bad character. Why would anyone care?

Ultra-marathon trail running, now there’s a sport for adults.

That's not a sport, that's exercise

Running 3 miles in the morning before work is exercise. Nobody runs ultra marathons for exercise.

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Why would this work? A lot of players are opting out of the season already. If you add the possibility of losing 30% of one's salary if one gets infected, let's say by one's housekeeper or an Instacart delivery person, why would you even consider playing? Sure, that kind of infection is a long shot, but not an impossibility.

This might possibly work if we could positively trace the source of infection and categorize risks suitably. Even then, it's problematic. Maybe infections picked up at parties are costly, but what about getting infected at granny's funeral?

Then you get the contagion problem. Do you penalize players infected by another player? Besides, such precise tracing would be impossible if infection is about viral load rather than mere exposure. It's not like we live in a video game and can count hit points.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/5-of-nba-players-test-positive-for-the-virus-11593191061
5% of NBA Players Test Positive for the Virus
Tests showed that 16 of 302 players were positive in the league’s first round of coronavirus testing before the NBA attempts to restart in July

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There’s only one thing I care about. If the COVID crisis stops baseball players from spitting, it will all have been worth it.

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A Beckerian solution?
Athletes are different from other professions.
Perhaps consider what the Japanese Sumo Association is considering for an wrestler who violated bubble rules.
After going out drinking with fans, he was disqualified from the remainder of the current tournament. The discussion is whether he will be completely thrown out of the sport for endangering everyone.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2020/07/29/sumo/history-shows-abis-flouting-virus-protocols-will-likely-last-straw-japan-sumo-association/
With great power comes great responsibility?

With great privilege comes great responsibility.

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It is a great comment and thought. Drawback? It reminds me of a Bill James comment about when baseball first included weight clauses in contracts. The question was whether they worked or just established the price for being fat. The thought was that in the off-season, the player would rather slam one more donut, and was okay with the small reduction in salary that at the levels they were paid, was just monopoly money anyway.

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at what point does it make sense to infect everyone and eliminate further risk altogether?

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One of Tyler's worst ideas ever. Try docking the team instead. And let's charge every university $10,000 per student, staff, or faculty member who tests positive - the money going to cover covid health care costs in the counties where the school is located.

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