Baseball has already lost in many ways because of the pandemic - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Baseball has already lost in many ways because of the pandemic

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Major League Baseball owners and players want to do everything possible to play this season, but there might be a reason why they won’t: tests.

If tests for the coronavirus aren’t available on a wider scale in a few weeks, it seems unlikely that there will be a season.

Players, managers, coaches, trainers, umpires and team staffers who come into daily contact with each other would have to be tested regularly.

If tests become readily available, there’s not an issue. But if they remain relatively scarce, how can baseball justify allowing ballplayers to be tested if those tests aren’t available to first-responders, other hospital workers and our most vulnerable citizens?

The idea of no season is an awful scenario for baseball. There haven’t been any meaningful games played since Game 7 of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros last October 30th.

Going without baseball until next spring, which could be a gap of 17 months, would injure the game.

But it’s already lost much of the season. And, even if 80-to-100 games are played without fans, there will be little recognizable about it.

Some fans have been staying up late or getting up early this week to watch games in South Korea, which have been played without fans and with ESPN announcers in the U.S.

That’s fine to prepare for the visual sensation of watching an emotional sport in an unemotional environment.

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Many also have brought up the April 2015 “no-fans” game in Baltimore in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, but that was a one-off played because there was no other choice.

Baseball depends on growing new fans, a task that’s become harder and harder with competition from other sports and electronics.

For most people, going to games begins at a young age when parents, other relatives or friends’ parents take children and begin introducing them to the intricacies of the sport.

Some, particularly in Maryland, have taught young fans the game by taking them to minor league ballparks, where tickets are cheap, parking is often free, and there’s ample roam to run around if they become bored with the game.

It’s unlikely there’s going to be minor league baseball anywhere. Perhaps there is a chance — if the testing issue is resolved — of small crowds being allowed to attend games if social distancing is enforced.

It doesn’t seem appealing to teach 8- or 9-year-olds baseball while watching games on TV in empty stadiums.

Ratings for games, should they occur, are likely to be higher than they would be normally, but that’s because so many other entertainment options have vanished.

Baseball can’t return in a vacuum. If there are still restrictions on crowd size, and people can’t do everyday things like get a haircut or work out in a gym, then I don’t see how baseball returns this year.

Everyone has lost something during this awful time. It seems that most people know someone who’s been affected by the virus, and those who don’t have suffered economically or socially by being deprived of time with loved ones.

Easter has already passed with people self-quarantined. Mother’s Day is just two days away, and we’re now just two weeks away from Memorial Day weekend when crowds in the mid-Atlantic flock to Maryland and Delaware beaches.

Those special times and many others won’t be happening this year.

On a much smaller scale, baseball, which is taking an immense hit economically, suffers even with a half or two-thirds of a season.

The Orioles might suffer more because after five consecutive years of declining attendance, fans have another reason not to attend.

It’s not necessarily the rabid fan who will stop attending. It’s the family who went to four or five games a season, and now gets out of the habit of going to games even when it becomes safe to do it.

The owners and players are bound to have contentious talks about the guidelines for the season. There must be maximum flexibility on both sides.

It will be interesting to see if players who have had unexpected time at home with their families are fearful of leaving them during this uncertain time.

So far, no active major leaguer has tested positive for the coronavirus, but what will happen if a player tests positive?

The recent chatter about adopting a three-division format with 10 teams each seems to make the most sense for this season. According to some reports, it could have the AL East and NL East playing together.

The regular season could be extended into October and the postseason through November at warm-weather neutral sites.

Could that end with a World Series with two National League or American League teams playing each other?

There are so many things that must be decided if there’s to be baseball by early July. Let us hope that there are reasons for them to be decided.

First, though, is the issue of the tests.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 8, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Wow Rich. I applaud your efforts as material is certainly in very short supply for today’s baseball scribes. What more can possibly be said regarding what ‘may or could’ happen this year? I’ve only got one thought on today’s article, and that is that this year is already a wash. Sure I’d love to see something happen…empty ballparks and all, but to suggest that a World Series could be played this year is out of the question in my mind. No team should be crowned Series Champions unless they’ve played within their own leagues and divisions and for what could reasonably be considered a full season. Maybe that number of games needn’t be 162 or even 144 … and I don’t know what that number is … but I’ll know it when I see it. Call this season’s best team MLB’s Champions or whatever else you want to, but “World Series Champs” should be a label best left on the shelf this year.

    • cedar

      May 8, 2020 at 11:04 am

      I agree with Boog’s comments about not bestowing a World Series champion for 2020. This is really a lost season and if we are going to have baseball in 2020. Let’s change things up a bit to make it more fun and interesting.

      I find the idea of restructuring the divisions for this year to be one that for at least me, would generate more interest. What about the DH rule? I would love to see it flipped where NL home games would use the DH and AL home games would not. Or this could be the time to “experiment” and institute the DH rule for the entire league for 2020 and gauge player and fan reaction.

    • Bancells Moustache

      May 8, 2020 at 11:39 am

      No, a champion is a champion. No alternate title, no asterisks, no history book shenanigans. The Los Angeles Dodgers were World Series Champions in 1981. The Atlanta Braves were World Series Champions in 1995.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 8, 2020 at 7:29 pm

        I feel you BanMo, but in 1981 and 1995, the American League was the American League, while the National was the National. It is being suggested that the Leagues will be reorganized in some different format during the regular season to minimize travel and exposure. And that includes mixing the AL and NL. That’s a pretty big matzo ball to swallow. If the Yankees and Mets are in the same tree of the standings, it ain’t a legitimate World Series to me.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 8, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      To answer Cedar, the thinking is that there would be a universal DH this year.

  2. Orial

    May 8, 2020 at 10:18 am

    All I know is that MLB better come up with something soon. The NFL and Michael Jordan seem to be stealing the air waves. Maybe another Astros scandal to fire things up a bit. Looking forward to the abbreviated draft though. That’ll help.

  3. Bancells Moustache

    May 8, 2020 at 11:34 am

    MLB has been Godawful at marketing itself for as long as I can remember. Basically Babe Ruth took them into the stratosphere 100 years ago and they’ve been content to rest on their “national pasttime” laurels ever since. That’s why the NFL and the to a lesser extent the NBA have been able to eat their lunch for 2 generations now.
    MLB should be praying to every diety you care to name that they get started in July. Specifically, Saturday July the 4th 2020. MLB should OWN the 4th of July in the same way that the NFL dominates Thanksgiving, yet they do not. This is a golden opportunity served on silver platter for them to do so. An Opening day on the 4th of July where you can set the premier team matchups AND with their number one superstar starter on the hill. Then follow up with fireworks, music the whole nine.

    But they probably won’t.

  4. BirdsCaps

    May 8, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    Assuming there is a season, baseball will lose some, but once it starts (even without fans), we will notice it less and less. Furthermore, people are looking for any sports they can find. Hockey in the last lockout shortened season, was still enjoyable hockey despite a radically shortened season. Furthermore, watching the international junior hockey tournaments,which depending on the host nation and who the us played could be played to a largely empty stadium on occasion still looked like enjoyable to watch semi pro (think baseballs futures game) but over an international 3 wk tournament.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 9, 2020 at 6:30 am

      Stephen, hockey is a sport enjoyed by many, but it hardly has as the number of fans in the U.S. as baseball, football and basketball.

      Hockey has many hard-core fans, but few casual ones.

    • CalsPals

      May 9, 2020 at 8:14 am

      Agree w/Rich, hockey rates right up there w/curling, ultimate frisbee, golf, unfortunately I’d rather watch my grass grow, or the paint on my barn dry…ANY baseball works for me…go O’s…

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