There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead about if there will even be a MLB season this year, with players rejecting a league proposal and the league rejecting a players’ association proposal. A shorter season proposal from owners is still expected, but may not be approved by players. Amidst that, Thursday saw some reports that if there is a season, both TV and radio announcers may call road games from offsite studios. Remote broadcasting had previously seen some discussion around some teams, in particular with YES executive John Filippelli telling NJ.com’s Bob Klapisch last month that “tentative plans are being made” for their Yankees’ TV booth to call even home games from offsite studios, but Bruce Levine of Chicago’s 670 The Score and Tony Paul of The Detroit News both tweeted Thursday that it looks like all local announcers may wind up calling road games remotely as part of efforts to limit the risk of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus:
All MLB announcers( TV and radio) have been told they will be doing all 2020 road games from a local broadcast studio or home ballpark with monitors as their guide.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) June 4, 2020
I'm told it's extremely likely that if Major League Baseball does resume this season, team broadcasters — TV and radio — will do home games as normal, but will *NOT* travel to road games. They would instead do those games from a local studio.
— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) June 4, 2020
There’s some dispute about the wording of Levine’s tweet in particular, with NBC’s Jessica Kleinschmidt tweeting that “not all MLB announcers” have been told this. And Paul’s tweet only says this is “extremely likely” rather than a sure thing. But this does seem like a reasonable possibility if we do get a 2020 MLB season (which is still quite uncertain at this point); any return to play in the time of COVID-19 is going to involve as few people as possible, and if that return does take place in home stadiums rather than in central locations (contrary to what the NHL and NBA are proposing), it does seem likely that MLB will try to limit the amount of people travelling for each game.
Remote broadcasts have expanded significantly in recent years in many sports, but they’ve criticized for both sending a message that certain sports are less important and for missing the atmosphere of stadiums. However, with these games likely to be played with no fans, there won’t be much stadium atmosphere to speak of, and this move would likely be billed as being made from a safety perspective rather than a cost-cutting perspective (although you can bet that teams and RSNs are eager to cut costs as much as possible as well given the financial challenges they’re facing at this moment).
Of course, there may still be a drop in broadcast quality from moving announcers to remote work, as they’ll only be able to follow action via the cameras rather than their own eyes. But there’s going to be a lot that’s unusual about MLB play in 2020 (if it does even happen), and remote announcers probably won’t be near the top of the list of changes for many, especially if that move winds up being only for road games. It should be emphasized that this is far from official at the moment (and that there currently isn’t even a MLB season), but Paul’s report that this is “extremely likely” does seem to have some merit. So if we do get a MLB season in 2020, we may well wind up seeing announcers calling road games from the studios.