Players Breathe Toxic Air as West Coast Burns: What the Hell Is Wrong With Baseball?

This week in our impending apocalypse: The A’s and Mariners forge on with a doubleheader, against the advice of scientists.

This week in our impending apocalypse: The A’s and Mariners forge on with a doubleheader, against the advice of scientists.
Photo: Getty

Amid western wildfires and hazardous air quality, the MLB and NFL continue to play on. But for how long?


Yesterday, the A’s and Mariners played a doubleheader in a hot box in Seattle. The retractable roof at T-Mobile Park couldn’t keep the smokey air out.


Without fans in the stands due to COVID, athletes were the only ones affected by poor air quality — and affected is putting it mildly.

“I’m a healthy 22-year-old. I shouldn’t be gasping for air or missing oxygen,” said A’s starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo. “I’ll leave it at that.’’

Oakland reliever Jake Diekman tweeted at the MLB asking about the league’s air quality threshold.


“I heard 200 was the cutoff level to start,” and A’s manager Bob Melvin told the San Francisco Chronicle. “My understanding is it was way over that, both games.”

The Air Quality Index was, indeed, above 200 during both games. That number is “very unhealthy,” according to government standards.


An AQI of 200 is also the cutoff for NFL games.

The NFL held a game in San Francisco Sunday at an AQI around 160. The poor air quality almost led Niners running back Tevin Coleman to opt out of the game.


Cal Berkeley Professor of Environmental Health Sciences John Balmes, however, believes sports should not be played at an AQI over 151.


“When it gets above 151 athletic events should be canceled,” Balmes said in August. “Most people would not be harmed but it is to protect the sensitive people,” like athletes with asthma or other underlying health conditions.

Today’s national air quality map shows burning fires and poor air from San Diego to Seattle. As of now, the MLB will play their games as scheduled.


The NWSL, however, will not. The league postponed today’s rescheduled game in Portland, Oregon due to poor air quality from the fires. The MLS’ Portland Timbers have yet to announce whether or not they will play their home game tomorrow night.

As of 10:54 eastern, AQI in Portland, Oregon is 445 — “hazardous.”

What will it take for the other leagues to realize that they are putting workers’ health in jeopardy? If it’s not safe to go outside, it’s definitely not safe to play sports.


At a time when home field advantage is meaningless, why don’t some teams play their home games on the road? Seattle is expected to host New England on Sunday night — why can’t they compete on a “neutral” field in Foxboro?

Playing pro sports in a pandemic already poses a grave risk to personal health, why are leagues allowing these smoky games to continue?


MLB Commish Rob Manfred, your players couldn’t breathe last night. Where is your outrage? Where are the alternate plans and locations to keep your workers safe?

In another world, the toxic combination of a pandemic and pollution would shake the status quo of sportsworld. Today, the machine just rolls on.

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