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Saturday, April 4, 2020

MLB Misses Its Shot

Why did I just sign up to stream the Chinese Professional Baseball League when it starts its games next weekend? Because it's professional baseball, only cost me $33, and the streaming fees I paid to both MLB and MiLB ain't getting me jack spit.

MLB has really missed the ball on this one.

Baseball is pretty much by definition THE social distancing sport. On the field at any given time are nine guys who are more than six feet apart. You add in a couple umps and at most four offensive players and it would be an extreme situation if five were ever close to one another. It could be done.

Of course, there'd have to be limitations. Go to a two ump system. Every one of those umps has worked a two ump system in the minors; they can do it again. No base coaches or any of the other fifty or so coaching and other non-player positions. In fact, let the manager manage via radio or phone and not be on the field. Ten players in the dugout and five in the bullpen (four pitchers and the backup catcher); when not pitching a pitcher goes back to the bullpen. Eliminate the designated hitter so there is need for one less player. Travel by two smaller charter planes or *GASP* by a couple buses each with less than ten people. I'd suggest your eight starters, four pitchers, backup catcher, and two utility players. Add in the manager and a couple guys to prep equipment ('cuz there ain't no way MLB players remember how to wash uniforms and stack bats). Use two locker rooms per team that do not connect. It could be done.

And yet, it's not.

Imagine if MLB delayed its opening a week or two in order to let some of the furor die down and then opened in empty stadiums as the only sport on television or the only sport playing period. THE ONLY SPORT.

And yet, it didn't.

Why not? Well, I think they were still hoping to have their big opening day which makes them lots of money and they don't like the idea of playing in empty stadiums because they think it will make a bad image (because fans can't possibly understand they're empty because of the disease not low attendance). Basically, this fits in with the reason the MLB always has problems in modern times: the management is incapable of long term thinking. We've all seen really stupid things going on like rules changes which make the game worse in order to shorten it 5 or 6 minutes, picking an unneeded fight with their minor leagues with the intention of abandoning baseball fans around the country, not fixing their draft selection process so that a third of the teams will stop tanking every year, not fixing the flaws in the game proceeding (quite logically) from sabermetrics (increase the strike zone and move the fences back), and the leagues should have long ago expanded into several cities (Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal, and maybe even Mexico City). They were probably also gun shy. No matter when they open there will be a portion of the public which screams bloody murder and the press will be stalking them for the first team to have someone come down with the disease.

During the 1916 Polio epidemic (a Summer epidemic), baseball played.

President Wilson throwing out 1st pitch on opening day: Senators v. Yankees

During the 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic, baseball played.

1918 World Series
In modern times, when we have far better capacity to protect those playing and we know better than to let people crowd the stadiums, could they play? Sure they could. They won't.

And that may be a good thing. They may be making the right call. It's hard to balance out the real threat of the disease against the more ephemeral need of uplifting events to build and maintain morale against the panic caused by the disease and the concern for the economic damage of the imposed solution.

In the meantime, I'll be rooting for the Fubon Guardians.