By Rich Mancuso The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
So baseball is back and that’s what you want to hear. The owners put the players in a position to play 60-games after months of back-and-forth proposals. The medical protocols are in place to prevent a spread of COVID-19.
Face the facts. The owners and commissioner got their deal. The players and union get their grievance, so baseball will be headed for more disruption after the 2021 season. Honestly, though, this is a matter of dollars and cents.
The battle between millionaires and billionaires and why we have no baseball until July 23rd. No baseball July 4th. This deal could have been done weeks ago and it is difficult to understand why we waited so long.
Regardless, both parties are wrong when it comes to the specifics of dollars and cents in the billionaire industry of MLB. Fans are the losers. Stadiums will remain empty and that means more revenue lost for the owners and the players.
No All-Star game or home run derby which generates revenue. Universal designated hitter for both leagues, and three divisions by region. Runner at second base in the event a game goes to extra innings that is more suited for the sandlots.
Locally, the Yankees and Mets in the same division, oppose each other four or six times and that will draw interest if you are enthused to see baseball played differently.
Revenue at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, accustomed to an average of 47,000 fans during the borough rivalry, will not exist with fans not in the ballparks.
The Yankees and Dodgers are favored to reach the World Series, that is, if we are fortunate to get there without a disruption. Aaron Boone will not manage a 100-win Yankees team and the Mets will finally unveil new manager Luis Rojas.
And Mets fans will see Yoenis Cespedes back in the lineup as a probable DH. Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom, dueling against each other on the mound, is one of those anticipated baseball moments of 2020.
All possible situations can occur during this 60-game sprint.
Yes, a global pandemic caused disruption and there could be more cases of COVID-19 in baseball, already seen, which could cause another stoppage of the game. So with the strict medical protocols and no end to the coronavirus, players are ready to report Monday for part 2 of spring training in their home ballparks.
It’s July 23 and 24th and Opening Day.. It will be different for the players, personnel, and limited amount of media covering games with no access to players. Yes, the media will be required to wear face protection in the ballparks from initial reports.
It will be different for you and me. As a baseball purist, the format and different rules don’t go over well. But this will be the only game in town if and when the NFL schedule goes off as planned and fans will tune in.
Those medical protocols? Players are concerned and are expecting numerous positive results of COVID-19 as many travel to their destinations from Latin America and cities that are seeing a rise in cases of the Coronavirus.
Temperature checks, distancing, and constant testing will be the norm. Separation and different routines are not the norm for players that are creatures of habit. The baseball played won’t be normal. There is no answer as to how MLB will deal with an increase in positive COVID tests.
If a team is informed to relocate, because an infection rate says it is not safe, what are the procedures and where do they go from there? These are answers that will be played out when this truncated and unusual season begins.
This is unprecedented territory. Baseball is not being played in a bubble like boxing has successfully done in Las Vegas with Top Rank and ESPN the past three weeks.
And there is a possibility that numerous players will sit this out with fear and caution. Simply, they don’t want to be put in a position of being placed in isolation and away from their families, more complicated if that arises on the road.
Either way, high profiled players and those not in that bracket have mixed views about getting back on the field. According to the agreement, those who opt out will not get service time and pay. There are exceptions with circumstances and different players.
NYextra.com reached out to some players. As expected there were mixed signals. As much as baseball players are that fraternity, they are concerned about their safety. Creatures of habit, as they are, the signals were not positive about isolation from each other in the clubhouse, on the road,
Anything from the travel, to leaving the ballpark 90-minutes after the last pitch was thrown is a concern. They are scrambling to find places to reside and how to commute to the ballpark with social distancing.
And, to some, the game of baseball is not meant to be played with no fans in the ballpark. But, they will adjust because they have no other alternative to play. They will leave the economics to another day as their game is headed to a major collision with owners.
“ I was hesitant,” said a player with veteran status. “I talked this over with the family and slept on it. Not enthused but will go with the plan and hope for the best.”
Another said, “Just hope for the best and go with the plan. Hope for the best and we will get through this. Going to be weird for everyone and different.. No doubt we have no time with a sprint to go on a losing streak and have no time to get back in the race for the postseason.”
A few said, a MLB shutdown was preferred until a proper vaccine for COVID-19 was in place, then again, who knows the duration as to when the medical community will have that. And they would have sacrificed sitting at home and going with that route of safety and let it play out.
So here we are. Baseball is back and lots of questions that will have answers in the month ahead to that new Opening Day. Not the way the game should be played, and not the norm reporting a game at the ballpark.
In the end, safety is first and foremost. Players and owners are aware of the changes and protocols. But fans got their game. The next few months will be a sprint and not a marathon.
But what happens next year? If this coronavirus is not under control 2021 is in jeopardy and here we go again.
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