I’m certainly not here to burst anybody’s bubble, but I believe that short of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, neither baseball nor any sport will be coming back anytime soon. Granted, I am starting my seventh week of quarantine today and I’m positive that I’m beginning to feel the mental and emotional strains that experts say exist, including an impaired ability to think and rationalize clearly. But maybe that’s actually helping me cut through a lot of the extraneous noise.
Barring a scientific miracle, most epidemiologists estimate the process of developing and widely distributing a vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus is likely to take 12-18 months. Additionally, Rob Manfred spoke with major league managers for an hour Friday but provided “no specifics” on how the 2020 season might restart, per baseball insider Ken Rosenthal.
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke for one hour this morning with major-league managers. Offered no specifics on how season might begin.
One manager: “Nothing concrete.”
Another: “Very vague.”
A third: “It was mostly a forum to allow guys to ask questions.”
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 17, 2020
Let’s not forget that April is widely considered the peak month for the spread of the pathogen, a time frame some experts are now extending into May.
In consideration of the general common sense of it all, which should hopefully include a near-guarantee of the safety of every person needed to stage baseball games for all 30 franchises, hopes of playing the 2020 season seem to be inching ever so close to impossible. I just can’t see Manfred stepping up to a podium, abruptly canceling a restarted season, and explaining how jumping the gun cost the life of one of their players, family members, or one of the thousands of essential employees needed to make any reboot happen.
Unless something’s changed, the players and owners have an agreement in place going back to March that explicitly states that the 2020 season can’t begin until all of the following conditions are met:
- There are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans;
- There are no U.S. travel restrictions; and
- Medical experts determine that the games will not pose a health risk to players, team personnel, and fans.
The key phrase in that third clause is medical experts, not those medical consultants employed by every major league franchise.
“We will not have sporting events with fans until we have a vaccine,” says Zach Binney, a PhD in epidemiology who wrote his dissertation on injuries in the NFL and now teaches at Emory.
Still, that didn’t stop ESPN’s Jeff Passan from pointing out a potential caveat that indicated the MLBPA might consider playing the season at neutral sites in Arizona and possibly Florida, something that was shot down almost immediately. Two of the games biggest stars, Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout, oppose such a plan. Others are sure to similarly unite behind the two leaders.
That begs the question: Would baseball allow any of its players to abstain over health or family concerns?
If so, what is the point of playing at all? If not, what are the repercussions for players who choose to be conscientious objectors? I’d bet an injunction or two, at minimum, would follow any decision to restart the season while anybody involved could still be at risk for infection.
Heck, what if the owners and MLBPA agree to start the season, but the umpire’s union objects? Has anybody asked those guys how they might feel about a reboot, or are we just assuming Manfred will fully implement robotic umps?
With all that in mind, I’m beginning to dim the lights on any previous confidence I’ve expressed that baseball will resume this year, though I hope I’m wrong. And hey, once a vaccine is developed we can talk about the group of individuals who will refuse immunization for themselves and their family members. I’ve already seen that argument ramping up on Facebook.
Cubs News & Notes
- Kris Bryant has hit some pretty significant home runs during his career.
- First baseman Anthony Rizzo says MLB has to approach an attempt to play the season with player safety at the forefront of any decisions the league may make.
- Kyle Hendricks might not fit the mold of players typically considered to be future managerial candidates, but the Cubs pitcher has a few traits that could put him on the path.
- Ryne Sandberg is having a tough time dealing with baseball’s hiatus.
- Even if Greg Maddux had been blessed with a little more giddyup on his fastball, he might not have relied on it that much.
- Yu Darvish out-pitched Max Scherzer as the sim-Cubs beat the Nationals 5-2. Darvish had 10 strikeouts, improving to 4-1 on the season. Ryan Davis has the recap.
- The Strat-O-Matic Cubs lost the rubber game of the series 4-2 as Stephen Strasburg improved to 5-0. Jon Lester took the loss for the 14-8 Cubs.
- You can watch the 2018 Home Run Derby, which featured an epic battle between Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper, at noon CT today on MLB.com.
- After basketball legend Michael Jordan left the Bulls in 1994, he played a season as a White Sox minor leaguer. The ChiSox farmhand and (at the time) three-time NBA champ did get a chance to play in a preseason game between the Cubs and White Sox at Wrigley Field that April. Harry Caray interviewed MJ, which the sportscaster called the highlight of his life, and Jordan gave an interesting answer when asked if he would ever reconsider basketball. The video includes game highlights, where Jordan’s legend grew even larger after a 2-for-4, two RBI afternoon.
Apropos of Nothing
Happy 4/20 day. It’s legal in most states, so partake if that’s your thing. When I was a teenager we’d have parties to celebrate Cannabis Consumption Day, though I never smoked. I wonder if the masses will gather near Hippie Hill in San Francisco or anywhere publicly today despite stay safer at home orders. The event in Golden Gate Park has been officially canceled and the meadow that holds the annual celebration will be closed to the public.
Jeff Blauser played for the Cubs during the 1998 and ’99 seasons and wore number 4. Matt Mieske wore number 20 in ’98 and Chad Meyers wore it the next season. I’ve just made this section a baseball blurb.
With baseball considering games in front of no fans, I can neither confirm nor deny that Manfred has called in a panel of experts on playing in empty stadiums that includes Jerry Reinsdorf, Rick Hahn, and Kenny Williams of the White Sox.
Odds & Sods
In November 2018, professional US poker player Rich Alati bet $100,000 that he could survive 30 days alone and in total darkness. He was kept in a small, completely dark room with nothing but a bed, fridge and bathroom. Even with all the resources he needed to survive, Alati couldn’t last the month. After 20 days he negotiated his release, taking a payout of $62,400.
We sat down with Rich Alati, the poker pro who spent 20 days inside a dark room with no contact to the outside world & won a $62,400 bet for doing it.
He takes us inside the darkness, working out in pitch black & the hallucinations https://t.co/Xt0lbSUlei
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 18, 2018
MLB News & Notes
You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to read it, but Peter Gammons believes baseball won’t return to normal until 2023. That’s a sensationalized way of saying that most front offices believe that the development infrastructure of most teams will face a considerable overhaul due to the loss of game action for players at the lower levels.
Effective May 1, Commissioner Manfred will suspend Uniform Employee Contracts, enabling teams to furlough employees or reduce their pay, according to Ken Rosenthal. Players will not be affected, but managers and coaches at all organizational levels could be, as could front office personnel and scouts.
An on-field brawl between the Rakuten Monkeys and the Fubon Guardians of the Taiwanese Professional Baseball League could give baseball players and owners another thing to consider before deciding to get back to baseball.
Shake Shack does a nice thing here, which should be expected from a fast food restaurant that clips you $15 for a burger, fries, and a drink.
BREAKING: Shake Shack announces it's returning its $10 million government loan meant for small businesses struggling in the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemichttps://t.co/WE79boL3qY
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 20, 2020
They Said It
- “I think you’re going to have a hard time telling grown men with established lives to stay in a hotel and not be with their families. You’re going to tell Kris Bryant that he’s not going to see his baby (born April 7) for 4 1/2 months?” – Anthony Rizzo
- “I have my third child due in June. If this ‘bubble’ in Arizona was going to happen starting in May, you’re trying to tell me I’m not going to be able to be with my wife and see my kid until October? I’m going to go four or five months without seeing my kid when it’s born? I can tell you right now that’s not going to happen. Not many people have to go through that, nor should they.” – Ryan Zimmerman
Monday Walk Up Song
Champagne & Reefer (Live) by the Rolling Stones featuring Buddy Guy – Naturally.