UFC and boxing have restarted their competitive schedules. So has golf. The NBA and major league baseball are heading back for shortened seasons and soon will be followed by the NFL. At least that’s the plan.
The return of sports on television has been welcomed in the midst of this continuing pandemic and it’s admirable athletes are willing to compete in the midst of COVID-19. But there remains no timetable for the return of fans to be in attendance, and it just hasn’t been the same without them.
Performing amid empty arenas, golf courses and stadiums doesn’t offer the same atmosphere, passion, pageantry and emotion that fans bring to an event, and that’s not going to change until it’s safe to put 10 to 20-thousand people together to cheer what’s going on.
Let’s hope with all the reflection that’s taking place these days owners, promoters, athletes and even the media will treat fans with a little more respect when life gets back to normal.
Fans deserve better. They’ve been taken for granted by ownership trying to find ways to siphon every last dime out of their wallet instead of making attending games a more affordable and memorable experience. The empty seats behind home plate at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are constant reminders of the greed that comes with escalating ticket prices and salaries. Let’s hope the impact of COVID-19 can serve as a reminder that sports aren’t the same without people in the arena reacting to those trying to entertain.
While the NBA heads to Orlando, baseball is preparing to restart a season that never got started and play a 60-game schedule in front of nobody. And while that sounds like a good thing, baseball is already slow enough and will become dreadfully boring without fans to serve as entertainment through three hours of little action. Once the novelty wears off, watching baseball without fans might be the worst thing to happen to the sport.
The only ones not complaining might be the Astros, who would have been subjected to endless heckling after being exposed as cheaters during the offseason. Perhaps the umpires, who tend to get an earful from the stands won’t mind either, and the relief pitcher who gets bombed without recording an out will enjoy a quieter walk to the dugout. The high-priced free agent slugger going through a slump won’t have to worry about getting razzed, and the manager won’t get booed for a questionable double switch.
But who’s going to react when someone hits a walk-off home run or acknowledge a starter who just threw seven shut-out innings or cheer the outfielder who makes a great catch while crashing into a wall or a runner who stretches a double into a triple? Who’s going to stand in unison during a big at-bat or sing during the seventh-inning stretch? Will they even need a seventh-inning stretch?
Fighters beat up each other and golfers are trying to get ball in a hole in the least amount of strokes. Simple. Baseball is game of subtleties that mean a lot. Signs are delivered from the manager to the catcher to the pitcher to the shortstop and to the outfielder. The opposition sends signals from the bench to the hitter and to the runner. Tendencies and averages are constantly analyzed. Lefty or righty? Keep the starter or go to the bullpen? What about a pinch-hitter? What’s a baseball game without fans to react to all this?
Fans have put up with a lot crap in recent years. Late starts, PSLs, players demanding trades over contract disputes, increased ticket prices, spending a fortune on bottled water, players who grumble when asked for an autograph, parking congestion, and being forced, especially in New York, to watch mostly lousy teams. They put up with general managers who no longer feel the need to communicate with them on a regular basis. And they can get booted from an arena for saying the wrong thing to an owner.
Despite all that, fans kept showing up so announcers can talk about “the electricity in the building” and athletes can call themselves entertainers. Basketball and baseball might be coming back, but the fans aren’t. Maybe they’ll be treated better when they do.
By Rich Mancuso/ thenyextra.com
“That’s the intent we are going to find out”
Yankees GM Brian Cashman is optimistic about finishing a 60-game season and that quote is the intent to do so after speaking with the media on a Tuesday afternoon conference call But as the Yankees and other Major League teams gather again for Summer spring training there is some pessimism.
COVID-19 cases are increasing around the country, a rate that has surpassed that first wave in February as baseball attempts to make a comeback. So there is room here for pessimism.
Testing for players that are reporting is expected to reveal more positive coronavirus results and to what direction this is going for baseball. Players are opting out and more of that could be expected.
Cashman, though, as with other GM’s around the game are optimistic even as many states that are home to baseball are seeing a rapid increase and all-time high of positive tests to COVID-19. This includes six teams on the west coast, two in Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio the others.
So as the Yankees report back to work in the Bronx this week, and with uncertainty as to where this truncated season is headed, MLB and 29 other teams are taking this day-to-day.
It is getting back to business with a projected Opening Day day in prime time for the Yankees against the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals, July 23, and the first start for Geritt Cole.
The Yankees’ have scheduled their first workout Friday or Saturday in the Bronx and others on the taxi squad will train in Moosic Pa. home of the RailRaiders, their Triple-A affiliate.
“I am real thankful we are getting an opportunity to try,” Cashman said.
He expected no players to opt out. Under an agreement with owners a player who is determined to be high risk can opt out and receive service time and salary for 2020.
Not the case with the Yankees. They are expected to begin on time.
Unless, of course with negative results, as coronavirus testing is conducted twice a day, the Yankees should be at full strength and a favorite to win the World Series in a season that has uncharted territory all over it and a championship that could get an asterisk.
Cashman does not expect any setbacks over the next three weeks. James Paxton (lower back surgery), Aaron Hicks (Tommy John surgery) ,and Giancarlo Stanton are expected to be healthy and ready to go. The advantage of the baseball hiatus since mid- March are players that were not expected to be ready in April are recovered and set for the late July start.
Stanton, out since late February with right calf strain has not done outfield drills as of yet. So, as Cashman hinted, Stanton will be used primarily in the universal DH spot.
Yes, baseball is unified with a designated hitter and that appears to remain in place in the years ahead.
A source said, the Yankees, as a team were all in favor of getting back to work. Another source, with inside information about owners and their position of resuming, said the Yankees hierarchy were major advocates of going along with a 60-game season that was implemented by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
Aaron Judge, the original plan was for a return to July, and the slugger has started to swing a bat and is being monitored after sustaining a fractured right rib.
It is starting all over for the Yankees. Yet, as the COVID-19 crisis continued and as players returned to their homes, some remaining in the Tampa Florida area, they continued their work and waited for the call to return.
Cashman does expect players that are not in the country to be delayed. Because of restrictions and concerns about the coronavirus, that could affect quite a few on the roster that are in latin America.
Regardless, and upon further word, the Yankees are beginning to proceed and following all the medical protocols set forth by MLB.
They say this is now a sprint and not a marathon, The Yankees are ready for the sprint. But remember what Cashman said about that intent.
Comment: Ring786@aol.com Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
Todays installment of “This day in sports”, features The Mets and the Yankees, with some Subway Series photos.
By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Baseball is back, and let the prognostications begin.
With just 60 games, every one is crucial and there may not be predictable winners in each division. In the American League, the safe picks would be the Yankees, Twins, and Astros coupled with National League version of Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers.
Still, anything could happen. A team can get hot at the end of August and ride the wave. How about a Philadelphia-Los Angeles Angels World Series? Or better yet, Pittsburgh-Texas? Uh..nah..
For our sakes, let’s envision the Yankees and Dodgers meeting in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1981. Yes, you are wondering why I wouldn’t propose a Yankees-Mets series, but a coast-to-coast series would be better for the game. Seeing some of the games from that series on recent YES reruns should provide some fodder. It was an interesting and captivating series.
The two teams have met more than other any other in the World Series, and the Yankees have won eight of 11 contests, the Dodgers winning the last one in 1981 in six games. On paper, these are the two best teams in the game playing in their iconic ballparks.
With fans unlikely in the stands, this could be a TV rating bonanza. You have the aging Dodgers’ star pitcher Clayton Kershaw reaching back for one of his final hurrahs with rising superstar Mookie Betts squaring off against top free-agent acuisition pitcher Gerrit Cole and the Bronx Bash Brothers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Needless to say, there will be plenty of subplots along the way.
Ironically, the 1981 Yankees’ and Dodgers’ seasons had some uncanny comparisons.
The 1981 year was a split season due to a strike and the Yankees won the first half comfortably with a 34-22 mark then they slipped to fifth in the second half with a 25-26 mark.
They faced the Milwaukee Brewers, winners of the second half, in the divisional series, and the Yanks outlasted them in five games. From there, the Yanks silenced Oakland in three straight in the AL Championship series.
These Yankees didn’t have the glaring offensive stats, but the likes of steady Bob Watson, Rick Cerone and Jerry Mumphrey along with stock stars Dave Winfield, Graig Nettles, and Reggie Jackson, who was in his final year of pinstripes.
The current Yankees lineup of Judge, Sanchez. DJ LeMahieu, and Gleyber Torres could garner a slight edge based on power and average.
Ron Guidry still had some of his late 70’s magic left and he was joined by Tommy John, Rick Reuschel, Rudy May, and Dave Righetti. Goose Gossage was nearly unhittable and registered 20 saves.
Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ would have more overall depth than their predecessors. The current Yanks’ bullpen also gets the check mark with their interchangeable parts.
In case you forgot, legendary Gene Michael managed the team until Sept. 5, and then Bob Lemon took over and won the pennant.
The ’81 Dodgers followed a similar script to the Yankees’ log, as they finished first in the opening half with a 36-21 mark and then fourth in the final section with a 27-26 record.
However, the Dodgers’ still had a leftover productive 70’s pack of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, and Dusty Baker paired with upstarts Mike Scioscia, Pedro Guerrero, and Ken Landreaux.
Grizzled veterans Burt Hooton and Jerry Reuss blended perfectly with budding Bob Welch and lights-out rookie Fernando Valenzuela. Steve Howe was on top of his game in the bullpen.
Baseball is back, and the games soon will begin. It won’t take long before each of us is entrenched again.
A Yankees-Dodgers World Series can rekindle plenty of memories from fans from 40 to 80, as well as showcasing some of its younger stars to same generation.
Baseball needs to mend its fracture, and it can regain its popularity with its two biggest pieces on the top shelf.