- Baseball could serve as a great unifier during this time of crisis
- Boras envisions players wearing rubber gloves in dugouts, masks during batting practices
- Games would return spectator free to record ratings
One of the most powerful sports agents in the country has a plan to ready America for its return from coronavirus and, unsurprisingly, it involves baseball.
While Major League Baseball has yet to publicly put forth its plan for the return of baseball, Scott Boras, who has negotiated more than $10 billion worth of contracts for some of the biggest stars in the game, said sports have a unifying effect on culture and there's no better way to begin the return to normalcy than through America's favorite pastime.
"I'm not waiting for big pharma," Boras told CNBC in an interview this week. "While pharma is working on vaccines, we need to advance earlier."
Boras has spent his days in isolation consulting with immunologists and medical experts around the world, and he said this elite class of professional baseball players, made up of young healthy athletes, are the perfect subjects to get America running again if done properly.
"I think right now there is a dilemma in America and that is compliance with the public health issue and the requirements of isolation and also the demands of people wanting to return to work," Boras told CNBC's Squawk Alley Wednesday in a separate interview.
Scott Boras has been a driving force in baseball. Over the course of his 30-year career, he has negotiated nearly a dozen contracts worth more than $100 million according to Forbes. Today, he represents a number of top players including Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Jose Altuve.
Major League Baseball has already been on the forefront of coronavirus research. Recently, the league agreed to participate in the largest antibody study in the country with voluntary testing of 27 of its 30 ball clubs.
Boras, who holds both a law and pharmaceutical degree, laid out a plan to CNBC that he believes would be necessary to get the ball in motion again and could also be used as a model for corporate America.
The plan involves creating control groups, bringing players back in waves and using isolation practices.
According to that plan, spring training would start immediately in Florida and Arizona. The league would follow a concept called functional isolationism, protecting parts of a system from the contiguous parts. Boras said this concept was successfully used by South Korea and Singapore during their own COVID-19 crisis. On Tuesday, South Korea kicked off baseball preseason games without fans.
Boras' plan has players and personnel would arriving for spring training in stages: pitchers and catchers first, followed by position players, and then everyone else. Once they arrive, they would be categorized into three groups: those who had coronavirus and have the antibodies to fight against it, those who haven't had it and those who have it currently. An isolation plan would be put in place, keeping infected players away from the team for a period of time and allowing the healthy players to begin training in isolation from their families and friends.
The league would contract one of the private medical labs for routine testing throughout the process.
Boras said that if implemented successfully, this plan would be evidence to mayors and governors around the country on how to create a neutral workforce and how to reintegrate employees in a safe manner.
It would require some sacrifice by players in that they would have to agree to self-isolate from their families and be closely monitored by their teams at all times during a specified period of time. When they go home to be with their families, they would have to start the quarantine process all over again.
Not everyone would be in favor of a plan like this. Angels star Mike Trout, whose wife is pregnant, recently spoke out about the impact a long-term quarantine would have on his family.
"I think the mentality is we want to get back as soon as we can, but obviously it's got to be realistic. We can't be sitting in a hotel room, just going from the field to the hotel room and not being able to do anything. I think that's pretty crazy," he told NBC.
Boras said that a plan needs to be developed quickly so that players have adequate time to condition and prevent injury,
"It's very important to future franchises for players to be ready to play and properly conditioned," he said.
When the time is right to start, which Boras said is June at the earliest and the beginning of July at the latest, the games will return without fans in the stands. During games and practice, Boras envisions players in the dugout wearing more than just baseball gloves, but also the rubber gloves that have become ubiquitous during the cornavirus crisis. Players would take precautions such as wearing masks during batting practice.
Boras said while playing without fans may not be ideal to some players, he said the players he represents are in favor of playing the game they love with or without fans for this period of time.
"I know my players are willing to create this control and go forward. They want to create a return to normalcy and certainly our national pastime is a sign of that," Boras said on "Squawk Alley."
MLB told CNBC that commissioner Rob Manfred recently updated teams with the league's return in a memo.
"As you would expect, we are considering and analyzing a number of possibilities," Manfred wrote. "Only one decision, however, has been made with respect to the 2020 season: Major League Baseball will return to the field only when public health officials agree that it is appropriate to play and when we are convinced that our return to the field is safe for players, employees and fans.
While many ideas have been floated about where MLB will play once they return, Boras said he thinks California is best equipped from an infrastructure, logistical and health perspective.
"They have the best ball parks, everything is within a five to six hour driving distance, and they have some of the best hospitals in the country," he said.
California also has a low mortality and infection rate compared to other parts of the country due to strict government measures. Boras, who served as a lawyer defending big pharma early in his career, has studied the issue of where to play at length. While he favors California, he said there are at least 17 ballparks around the country in states with the lowest mortality rates that could be viable options. He points out that 61% of the coronavirus deaths around the country come from just 6 states: New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Louisiana.
Boras said this model could work for baseball and for corporate America. Companies could follow a similar path of bringing back workers slowly, keeping them in hotels for isolation before slowly returning to normal.
Boras, who resides in Newport Beach, California said he's spent his days without sports doing things such as watching the Spelling Bee on television, reading medical journals about the cornovavirus and helping navigate these trying times for the players he represents.
He said compared to other sports, baseball naturally has social distancing during play, and if this could be done in a safe and measured manner, it would also be beneficial to the game he loves.
"What would MLB pay for their game to be broadcast at a time when people can't go anywhere? Ratings would be the greatest ratings baseball has ever had," he said.
He also said baseball will provide the return to normalcy that America so desperately needs right now.
"America misses victories right now and to turn on your TV and watch a baseball game is a part of that normalcy," he said.