In 2020, the game will change — so must we

The world is facing a foe whose challenges make hasty responses very risky.

While the president favors haste as he seeks to sow “division and confusion” — his way of dealing with complexity and uncertainty, Major League Baseball is taking a more deliberate approach.

Player by Lucky Creative/

MLB released a 67-page report stating what needs to be done to protect players and support personnel when the sport resumes. Among the issues covered in the report are how often to test, what to do when someone tests positive, and how to lessen chances of both players and other team personnel both contracting and spreading the virus.

Among the proposed restrictions according to The Athletic article are “No spitting, using smokeless tobacco and sunflower seeds in restricted areas. Any physical interactions such as high-fives, fist bumps and hugs must be avoided at club facilities.”

The game of baseball will be different.

And as MLB is offering its resumption plan, the Miami Marlins have reopened their facilities for player use.

A bigger problem is that even if MLB fully implements what is in its report that will not stop the virus’ spread. Further, as Andy McCullough and Marc Carig stated in an article in The Athletic,

the protocols may not be enough to blunt an almost inevitable outcome, the price for transporting thousands of people around the country to play games while a highly communicable virus still lurks throughout the nation: People in baseball will still get sick.

And that possibility is on players’ minds.

If players expect to receive a full season’s salary for a partial season of play, there might not even be baseball this year.

Further, for how long can games be played in empty ballparks before the fans watching TV games start losing interest? In a New York Times essay, Jeré Longman writes about the importance of fan-filled seats in stadiums:

For those watching on television, spectators are necessary surrogates. They provide jersey-wearing pageantry, face-painted tribalism and adrenaline for the players. Their responses of jubilation and anguish verify our passionate responses. Their voices become our soundtrack, collectively rising in anticipation, thunderously exhaling in joy or disapproval.

Without those spectators, those on-site enthusiasts, even televised games may lose some of the magnetism they have had.

But then, they might not.

Those empty stadium games could still be well worth watching.

Jason Stark wrote, “If there is, in fact, an 82-game baseball season, stuff will happen. Stats will happen. Winning (and losing) will happen. History will happen.”

It is unlikely a hitter will break the home run record or that a pitcher will strike out 300 batters, but a batter could hit .400 and a pitcher could break the record for the most consecutive strikeouts in a nine-inning game, the current record 10 by Tom Seaver on April 22, 1970, a game in which Seaver struck out 19 batters, one shy of the Major League record.

Let’s give baseball a chance to still keep us on the edge of our seats even if those seats are in our homes.