Baseball is back … Maybe? … Maybe not |

Baseball is back … Maybe? … Maybe not

The country is simply not ready

As alluring as the return of Major League Baseball is, how does the sport return to cities like Chicago where COVID-19 continues to devastate the population?
Jeff Roberson | AP file photo

ESPN reported Monday that Major League Baseball hopes to launch an 82-game season, starting in July.

The National-American League format would be dissolved for the season with three 10-team divisions based on geography. The Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, and Diamondbacks of the NL West would merge with the Mariners, A’s Angels, Rangers and Astros of the AL West, and so on.

There’d be a 14-team playoff field, instead of the usual 10, and the designated hitter would be universal.

“So they’re bastardizing the game for money,” said a fan upon hearing the news. That fan is my mom and she was reacting to NL teams having to use the DH. (A belated Happy Mother’s Day to her and don’t you love the fact that Mom hates the DH? She’s an American hero. Freud did not fall far from the tree and clearly is not adopted.)

While we would never contravene the word of the Maternal Unit Who Is To Be Obeyed At All Times, there are some other salient details like where would these games be played in this time of COVID-19?

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Apparently, Major League Baseball would like to play these games in the team’s home park, but has commissioner Rob Manfred looked at the map recently?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been quite plain about his thoughts of large gatherings in the Golden State, as has his counterpart in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee. And with that, 60% of the newly formed Western Division (Mariners, Giants, A’s, Dodgers, Angels, and Padres) is homeless.

Looking at any map of coronavirus cases in the country — we’re using “The New York Times'” for this opus — or a simple glance at the news, baseball will not be played this calendar year in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Detroit and Chicago, COVID-19 hot spots, with little relief in sight.

Just look at the Eastern Seaboard. How are the powers going to lower caseloads much less allow large crowds to gather? Looking at that same map, Cook County, which is in Chicago, has 53,000 cases, while roughly 2,300 people have perished. The picture is equally grim in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, which make up the Detroit metropolitan area.

So the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Orioles, Nationals, Tigers, Cubs and White Sox will not play true home games.

Then, there’s Ohio, home of the Reds and Indians. Gov. Mike DeWine was one of the first to shut down sporting events and the state still has 24,000 cases. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota (Brewers and Twins) have more than 10,000 cases. How do the Toronto Blue Jays play as well? Nonessential travel between the U.S. and Canada is still banned and can baseball be considered essential?

So far we’ve got 20 of 30 Major League teams not playing in their home parks were baseball to start in July. And let’s be honest, some teams are simply more equal than others like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies and Cubs. These marquee franchises are expected to play without their home gate?

This opens the financial can of worms, which is not inconsiderable. Yes, baseball has big television contracts which it would like to fulfill, but tickets, beer, hot dogs and peanuts are a considerable amount of revenue, not to mention how to pay the players for this 82-game season, another unresolved point of contention.

Of course, if you can’t play at home, the idea is to play in your spring training site, except that COVID-19’s there as well. One of the attractive aspects of spring training in Arizona is that all the stadia are close to each other in Maricopa County. That’s great, except that the county has 6,000 cases of the virus.

Meanwhile, Florida, aka The Grapefruit League, has been “opening” and has 40,000-plus cases.

We desperately want some sense of normalcy in our lives and, for a lot of us, that’s sports. Yes, we want baseball back — I would even be looking forward to watching the Giants go something like 25-57 and battling the Rockies to stay out of the cellar.

But Major League Baseball’s plan smacks of financial desperation and an utter lack of practicality.

While every sport wants to be the first back in action to lift the nation’s spirit and reap the financial whirlwind, America’s pastime should do the right thing and bag it for 2020 and come back in 2021 … without the DH in the NL.

Because, of course, Mom is right.

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