The disappointment of not having a full season in sports today, at every level, is something we have all had to deal with in our own way. From amateur to the pros, this pandemic has brought on a new uncomfortable normal. In our day to day lives, it has brought us to our knees. Will things ever be the same again for us?
Also, will sports ever be the same again? The NBA and NHL have been able to figure it out so far this year. Well enough to have a season ending playoff schedule. Unlike baseball and football, they have less players and they play indoors in controlled environments. They will be less damaged than baseball and football, who draw millions every season to large stadiums.
Baseball will take the biggest hit. Those other sports have shorter seasons and therefore, less games lost for fans. Baseball is the only sport that will lose more than half of it’s regular season during this crisis. I believe they will need a number of years to get fans interested enough to fork over their hard earned money to see ballgames, the way they did in the past.
A few things stand out to me for this prediction. Number one is that so many people have been out of work for so long that they will be spending less to see their teams play next year and once you break the cycle, it’s hard to get everyone back. Will MLB lower ticket prices and concessions to lure people back? If you believe that, I’ve got a moon orbiting Pluto I’d like to sell you.
Secondly, fans have gotten used to the new normal. Watching games on TV is all they have been doing. Once they get into a comfortable routine of that, a trip or two to the big ballpark will be all they need to satisfy the hunger of seeing a game live. Granted, there is nothing like being in a ballpark with all of it’s grandeur. I would never trade that for TV viewing, ever, but we are living in a different place now. It will take some time to make people feel comfortable again being with thousands of others shoulder to shoulder.
Today’s society loses interest in things quickly. So trying to change things to excite fans is of the utmost importance for MLB. It has always been that way. But is it really good for the game? “Speed up the game” is heard more today than “ Play Ball!” They change rules and make teams wear wild colored uniforms during the season. There are theme games, juiced up baseballs, swinging for the fences instead of slow moving, situational baseball. Are all of those changes drawing people to the game? Maybe yes and maybe no.
Some of the changes have hurt baseball. Teams have encouraged pitchers to blow out the radar guns and hitters to bulk up to the point that their muscles explode if they sneeze. This has brought about another new normal, the big elephant in the room, injuries.
I’m not talking about your typical injuries here. These are mind boggling terms that require a copy of “Encyclopedia of Intensive Care Medicine” to be with us at all times now, just to understand what happened to a player. Yankee GM Brian Cashman spoke of the recent injury to Aaron Judge, his third in this short season, telling us it is an injury to his “Soleus muscle.” What the heck is that? Do all of us have one of those or is that something only gifted athletes have?
These daily reports of injuries will come back to haunt baseball. Fans are seeing AA pitchers throwing to the likes of a Mike Trout because so many bonafide major league pitchers are on the DL every day. The same can be said about position players. As of August 29th, there have been 229 players who have been on the IL, some multiple times. The new analytical geniuses who dictate how the game is played on the field and the bulking up of the players, will only increase injuries.
The cost of teams having to pay players on the IL is in the millions, because it is covered mostly by insurance policies. But the cost to the fans can never be recouped. They watch what appears to be spring training games with names they never heard of and a here today, gone tomorrow revolving door from the big leagues to the bush leagues for most of these guys.
They may need to add a new definition to the word “injuries” in that Medical book: “Injuries: the thing that killed baseball.”