So when MLB announced on Monday that the league’s owners had approved a plan to start the 2020 season on Fourth of July weekend with no fans in attendance, Doolittle took to Twitter to express several concerns he and many other players have about the owners’ plan for returning to play.
“Bear with me, but it feels like we’ve zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season,” Doolittle began the thread. “Here are some things I’ll be looking for in the proposal…”
Because this is a novel virus, there is still so much we don't know - including the long-term effects. On top of respiratory issues, there's been evidence of kidney, intestinal, and liver damage, as well as neurological malfunctions, blood clots & strokes. https://t.co/rXD3vJRpoH— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Covid-19 patients often develop lung scarring, or 'ground-glass opacities'. These were found even in asymptomatic patients, and because the virus often affects both lungs, can cause permanent damage in some cases. Definitely a concern for an athlete. https://t.co/M7JknHBmdM— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Research has shown Covid-19 may cause issues with male hormone ratios - even in younger men, which could lead to fertility complications. Not ideal. Extremely suboptimal. Zero stars. https://t.co/M7JknHBmdM— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
We know that sharing indoor spaces greatly increases the infection risk, and it's rare that only 1 person gets sick. Will there be modifications made to clubhouses or other facilities to prevent a spread?https://t.co/lawfFDV6r6https://t.co/J5Lg1AfDJyhttps://t.co/nIU8MAEXHm— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
And we've learned that you release the most virus into your environment prior to symptoms even showing. So how frequently will we be testing to stay ahead of a potential spread and to mitigate as much risk as possible? https://t.co/ITimbAdfvl— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Fauci spoke about conducting an NFL season & indicated a need for daily testing. Baseball players might not be in close contact during a game the way football players are, but there is a lot of shared space in a clubhouse among players, coaches and staff. https://t.co/nF5KJ3Kspl pic.twitter.com/x84biP9Hse— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
He then brings up a VERY salient point about testing.
“So how many tests do we need to safely play during a pandemic?” he asked. “And not just tests for players. Baseball requires a massive workforce besides the players; coaches, clubhouse staff, security, grounds crews, umpires, gameday stadium staff, TV & media…we need to protect everyone.
“And that’s before we get to hotel workers and transportation workers (pilots, flight attendants, bus drivers). They are essential workers. We wouldn’t be able to play a season without them, and they deserve the same protections.”
We need to consider what level of risk we're willing to assume. 80% of cases are considered mild, but what if a player, a staff member, an auxiliary worker, or a family member gets a case that's in the 20% and they develop severe symptoms or chronic issues? 1 feels like too many?— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Doolittle also questioned how players and staff with compromised immune systems will be treated during a return to play.
“There are a number of players & staff who have pre-existing conditions that they are aware of (and likely more who aren’t yet),” he said. “We need a plan that seriously considers the increased health concerns of any players, staff or workers who are at higher risk.
“And if even mild cases can cause long-term health effects, will there be added healthcare benefits for players, staff and workers that will extend beyond their employment and into retirement to mitigate the unknown risks of putting on a baseball season during a pandemic?”
We don't have a vaccine yet, and we don't really have any effective anti-viral treatments. What happens if there is a second wave? Hopefully we can come up with BOTH a proactive health plan focused on prevention AND a reactive plan aimed at containment.— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Hopefully these concerns will be addressed in MLB's proposal, first and foremost: 1) what's the plan to ethically acquire enough tests? 2) what's the protocol if a player, staff member, or worker contracts the virus? We want to play. And we want everyone to stay safe.— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
Doolittle finished up by saying, “Sorry, I had to get that out of my system. I’m going to turn my phone off now. Best of luck to my mentions. Stay safe. Keep washing your hands and wearing your masks. I hope we get to play baseball for you again soon.”
Of course, certain fans weren’t done with him, so he had to bring up and explain a few more valid concerns…
Some people telling me to stay home if I don't want to play. We're asking these questions BECAUSE we want to play. We want to restart the season again. We also want everyone it would require to resume a baseball season to be as safe as possible. https://t.co/bvUPVspYjZ— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 12, 2020
It feels like the conversation about an MLB restart has shifted to the economic issues and that's really frustrating. Until there's a vaccine, let's focus on keeping everyone as safe as possible & minimizing the risks so we can play baseball again. https://t.co/AzHTmFZhZ4— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 12, 2020
The MLB players’ union still has to approve the owners’ proposal, but unless the many questions Doolittle raises get answered to the union’s satisfaction, Major League Baseball could end up right back at square one with regard to when the season will actually start, as well as how it will be conducted with the season being a significantly shortened one.