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Say it Ain’t so, Joe!

Major League Baseball to return with a 60-game season plus playoffs … But can it sustain itself through the Pandemic?

How quickly another month has arrived and left us, still wondering what the prospects are for any sports season of any kind to take place. Eventually in June, Dixie Youth Baseball returned along with some travel baseball and softball teams playing tournaments again. This is wonderful for our kids, and hopefully our communities COVID-19 numbers will improve so they may continue.

Finally MLB is poised to make a return; “summer training” is set to begin on July 1st, with the 60-game season beginning on July 23rd or 24th. This season will be like no other, not just in the handful of games played, but also in the rules as currently stated. No fans will be admitted to the games; TV only for baseball fans. Additionally, there will be no cross-continental games. The East plays in the East and the West plays in the West. Interestingly enough, the Yankees and Red Sox will play each other 10 games out of the 60-game season. The designated hitter rule will apply to both American League as well as

National League teams. As MLB states, this has been proclaimed “to protect pitchers from batting, a skill they have little time to practice.” Extra inning games will have a new twist as well. In the event of an extra inning game, the team batting will have a runner placed on second base, to prevent extended extra innings. Both visitors and the home team will have this opportunity.

I truly have no illusions that the “best” teams will make it to the playoffs, but it should make for good TV ratings. Talk about the importance of every game, well now we sure have it. It’s hard to wrap your head around. I’ve processed the season this way: The 60-game schedule is like a giant series of pool play that travel ball uses to parse out the weak teams and have the finals and World Series used as the championship round of play.

Players on the lineup will be in the dugout, additional players including pitchers, will sit in the stands and follow proper social distancing. Players will not be allowed to celebrate, no high-fives, no hugs; and no chewing tobacco! Only chewing gum will be allowed, however, no mention of sunflower seeds. The players will be compensated via proration based on the 60 games, that translates into 33 percent of their agreed upon salaries. There will be bonuses for post-season play. It’s important to note the Players Union did not agree with this proposal. The Players Union lobbied for 80 games, but since no actual agreement could be reconciled, the players simply told the owners: tell us when and where and we will be there. It’s important to note that the majority of Major League Baseball owners preferred the season be cancelled this year.

The Baseball season is well underway in Japan and South Korea, with no fans in the stands, rather pictures of fans in the stadium as reported last month. I’ve not heard that mentioned from MLB, however, why not?

NASCAR continues to have races and recently admitted 700 or so fans at the recent Talladega Race. This motorsport, once impervious to political and social wrangling, found its self mired in a very messy business at Talladega, and so much has been reported about it, we can decide for ourselves about the facts. I find myself surprised that I like NASCAR much less without fans present and just can’t get interested in watching it. Perhaps if they would allow Hyundai to field a competitive car I’d be more likely to watch it. A writer with much more provenance than I, recently lamented that NASCAR died when Dale Earnhardt was killed in an accident at Daytona. Perhaps it didn’t die that day, but it has been in noticeable decline since.

The NFL is rolling ahead with plans for a full slate of games, including pre-season and a 17-game regular season schedule. While I admire its tenacity and confidence, it seems unrealistic at the time of this writing that what the NFL is proposing will actually come to fruition. The NFL does have a fan-screening process in place as the fans enter the stadiums, and a strong COVID-19 protocol for players who become infected. I’m persuaded this will become much more complicated as the season unfolds. I am by no means a health expert, however at the moment, common sense tells me this is going to become, and is becoming, a very difficult task to accomplish. Fraught with complex tentacles and issues that might well cause a halt or, at the very least, a radical adjustment to the NFL season plans.

The NCAA football season is more complicated than the NFL can imagine. There is not a solid plan in place; it’s for all intents and purposes, a wait-and-see process. I fear we will bewail the NCAA football season for it likely will be nothing short of a sport we love but can hardly recognize. While I’m a “cup-half-full” guy, with great optimism, if the prevailing COVID-19 situation does not get measurably better, we need to prepare ourselves that our favorite spectator sport will not materialize. It’s conceivable to me that the season could start and then we might see a pause in the games. I think that’s a reasonable expectation. And if it does pause, what then? I’m simply dealing with the facts as I see them. No conspiracy theories, just the facts. It seems unlikely the games could be played in our current environment. Eight weeks is a long time and we could experience a miraculous improvement, I sure hope so. But look at the situation on the date you read this article. And just imagine we have the same situation as we currently do in eight or nine weeks and ask yourself; can you really see 80-plus-thousand fans in a stadium watching a football game for three hours?

I sure hope I’m wrong.

Next time.

 

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