Bock’s Score: Is This Really Baseball?

As America tip-toes its way through the coronavirus pandemic, the proprietors of baseball, lured by the attraction of broadcasting money, have managed to turn the Grand Old Game into a sideshow.

The pandemic made the 162-game marathon impossible but instead of settling on a more reasonable number, baseball’s bosses chose a 60-game sprint, while at the same time remaking basic parts of the game.

Because of the virus, there will be no fans. The Mets will replace them with life-sized cutouts in the stands. The Yankees have talked about piping crowd noise like the canned laughter television uses in situation comedies.

That is the least of it.

There will be no high fives, no chest bumps, no fist bumps, no sunflower seeds sprayed over the landscape. This will be sanitary baseball and that includes no pitchers touching fingers to their mouths. You want a little moisture? No problem. Pitchers will be equipped with damp rags in their back pockets, which should lead to some wet butts.

They decided our game was too slow so they have invented a way to speed it to a finish. Extra innings will begin with a runner on second base, the better to score a quick run, break the tie and send everybody home in a hurry. If everybody is in such a Chavez Ravine rush to go home, why come to the ballpark at all? And with no fans in the pandemic building, there is nobody to rush home anyway.

At least they’ve left the bases 90 feet apart.

For the moment.

Then there is the matter of who exactly is going to be playing these games. Headliners like Buster Posey, David Price, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond have opted out, deciding not to play because playing in this environment might be downright dangerous. Others like Freddie Freeman and Joey Gallo (maybe)  were sidelined by the virus. Gallo had a variety of results from a battery of tests and can’t be sure if he has the virus or if he ever had the virus. Is he safe or out?

The National League will use the designated hitter in the abbreviated season but not next year when, ostensibly, baseball will return to a full schedule. Makes sense, huh?

Pitchers are now required to face three batters (or finish an inning), reducing the parade of relievers and the strategy involved in having a specialist come in to face a slugger.

Now, if you are going to play, you need to abide by social distancing – six feet between players. How will they manage six feet between the catchers and the batters and the home plate umpires and the catchers? Anybody got a tape measure or a ruler?

Instead of this foolish version of pandemic baseball, it might be best to reflect on the past, on a time when the game made more sense. Fans get that opportunity in Q&A sessions this week with some New York baseball icons like Bobby Valentine, Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda and Art Shamsky of the Mets and Roy White and Jim Leyritz of the Yankees on Wednesday and Thursday. Contact WizardWorldVirtual.com for details. They will talk about a more sensible version of the game we love.

 

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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