Of course I’m excited for the return of baseball.
If it happens, naturally.
Despite the downsides.
I mean, I hate rewarding the owners for turning a global pandemic into a preview of the negotiations over the next collective bargaining agreement. But.
Come to that, during the entire stretch from March through June, I never saw anything about those of us who ponied up for MLB.TV subscriptions. I’m guessing that if there isn’t a season at all, we’d be entitled to refunds–but I’m also betting that we won’t get a pro-rated refund (sixty-three percent!) for a shortened season. Even if it’s only one game, and then MLB shuts down again, I’m quite sure the owners will keep our money.
That’s not really a major consideration, though. The MLB.TV subscription this year was less than we’re paying for a week of groceries, what with the supermarket price hikes we’ve seen over the past few months. And it’s a sunk cost, anyway.
As for the rule changes, well, they’re a mixed bag.
I’m not thrilled about the universal DH, but I’m not horrified, either. I’d rather see pitchers hit, if only because of the joy they generate on the rare occasions when they make solid contact. But I can live without all those weak grounders and wimpy pop-ups.
Three batter rule? Pros and cons again. Fewer commercials on TV and fewer inane distractions in the ballpark is unquestionably a win. And I disagree with those who say it removes an element of managerial strategy–it just requires a different strategy. On the downside, it means we’re in for months of complaints about the change.
Ejecting anyone who comes within six feet of an umpire while arguing a call sucks. It’s necessary, but it does rather kill the drama of a spirited argument. On the other hand, I’m firmly behind the new “no spitting” rule.
Really, there’s only one rule change I consider a negative. I bitched about putting runners on base to start extra innings three years ago. I’ve matured since then, and my feelings have changed. I’m no longer dubious; I’m not even revolted. I unreservedly loathe the notion. Unlike the three batter rule, it does reduce managerial choice. It makes a mockery of the grand traditions of the game. And–most importantly–it won’t do a thing to solve the problem it’s supposedly designed to address. It’s supposed to shorten games by making it easier to score in extra innings. But it’ll give that same run-scoring advantage to both teams. The only thing I look forward to with this rule is seeing Commissioner Manfred’s (ptui!) face as he tries to excuse the first game to go thirteen innings with both teams scoring in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth innings before the home team wins in the thirteenth with a bases loaded walk.
Still, if the new rules and restrictions are bringing us sorrow–and I realize that others feel more strongly negative than I do about the universal DH and the three batter rule–they also bring us great joy.
Consider the Oakland As recently announced “Foul Ball Zone”. Fans can’t go to games in person, but they can attend by proxy. For a mere $129–with the proceeds going to local food banks, youth development centers, and other worthy causes–a fan’s photo can attend all thirty home games this season. Even better, if a foul ball hits the fan’s proxy photo, Coliseum staff will send them the ball.* I’m looking forward to the legal scramble for the first ball that bounces off of three or four photo cutouts before coming to rest. Does it go to the first one it hit? The last one?
* I presume they’ll sanitize it first–or ship it UPS, which should guarantee that any viruses on the ball will die of old age long before the package arrives at the fan’s home.
Also high on my list of re-pre-season amusements: MLB soundly rejected “Spring Training 2.0” in favor of the more easily licensed “Summer Camp”. In case you missed the announcement, Summer Camp is sponsored by Camping World. Mind you, I don’t believe they paid anything for the rights–they were already the official sponsors of Spring Training, and this probably just represents MLB’s legal requirement to give them full value for their money.
As players–those who aren’t opting out, anyway–report to camp today, I look forward to the video tours of the tents (set up in the outfield, no doubt) for the rookies and minimum salary players and the cabins–repurposed luxury boxes–reserved for the veterans with multi-million dollar contracts.
Play ball, y’all!
I’m one of those who wanted MLB to simply call this year’s season a lost cause, but I knew that was unlikely to happen when there’s money to be made.
Re, the rule changes: I agree that the extra inning, on-base runner thing is, well, poorly thought out, to say the least, and I doubt if it will shorten games appreciably, overall.
I do have to admit, though, that I like the “three batter” rule. I get it, about Manager strategy and all, but the whole business of bringing in two, or even three pitchers in an inning reached the point at which it just seemed silly- and annoying. Three batters is enough to allow a pitcher who has, seemingly, lost his stuff to regain it- or, to load up the bases, either of which makes for interesting baseball.
Spitting? Well, they got the players to stop grabbing their packages every thirty seconds- or maybe the cameramen just learned to cut away when they did. Either way, I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference to the game. They got them to stop chewing (and spitting) tobacco on the field, too, and life has gone on. Baseball will survive this.
Honestly, I’m just grateful that more changes were not shoved down our throats. I was fearful that MLB would use the pandemic as an excuse to introduce robot umpires at home plate, but (while I’m sure it was considered) they passed on that. Deeply grateful.
Now, let the games begin, however belatedly and haltingly. It won’t feel “normal”, but what does?
I don’t think the no spitting rule will make any difference to the game either. I’m just glad to see it because spitting is aesthetically displeasing and, frankly, unnecessary. Swallow that spit. Shell the sunflower seeds before you put them in your mouth–or swallow the shells. Good fiber there.
And I’m in total agreement about the robot umpires.
Normal? No. Normaler? Yes. I’ll take it.