Monday, July 20, 2020

DON'T play ball!

photo by Mark F. Gleason
Open letter to Major League Baseball: 

No one loves the game more than I do. I made it a second career, that’s how much I love it. I’m a fan of all major sports, but baseball is the only one I miss during its offseason. The only reason I look forward to February is because that’s when pitchers and catchers report. When I used to announce games people would say, “How could you sit through 162 baseball games every season?” And I’d say, “It’s more like 182 with spring training, and I’m always bummed out on closing day.” So this is coming from a fan who has craved baseball since late October or Christmas (whenever the World Series ended).


Stop this ridiculous charade of a 2020 season now while you can.

I watched some of the “exhibition” games this past weekend and it was just a joke. Empty stadiums. Some stadiums had cut outs of people in some of the front row seats (something Ed Wood would do), and otherwise 40,000 empty chairs. Some players were wearing a mask, others weren’t.

And the games moved like molasses. Baseball is not known for it’s lightening pace anyway, but this was just paint drying with artificial crowd noise pumped in.

I put “exhibition” in quotes because here’s the truth: These regular season games MEAN NOTHING.

One-time only divisions. Sixty-game seasons. Expanded playoffs. No separation between the National and American League. Some of the premier players are opting out (when you have $50 million already, what can’t you buy?). And in all likelihood the season will be called off at some point.

Why? Because players and managers and others involved will contract the virus and perhaps face serious health issues or even die. And they’ll spread the virus to other players, who will spread it to family members, etc.

So you ask, why are they doing this? Canada won’t permit the Blue Jays to play in Toronto. They’ll have to play in either Buffalo, New York or Florida (like that’s the safest place to go). Why risk players’ health and the very integrity of the game for a possible three months of a diluted and bastardized product? Is it because the public needs its baseball? Is it for the comfort that the game and its healing effect has on hard times? Is it a statement that America rises above everything? No. They’re doing it because of….


Players want to be paid. Owners want broadcast and merchandising revenue. There’s no other reason.

Let’s look at the “safety” precautions. Players were given a hundred page booklet with the guidelines. How many players do you think are going to read it? Or even the first five pages? A friend said that on page 50 they could give a phone number and say anyone who calls this number will get a million dollars and they wouldn’t give away a single cent. He's right.  You could put the phone number on page 11 and get the same result.  Or maybe even 2. 

The players will be tested often. That’s a lot of players, a lot of tests – might those tests be better used in communities to help lower the spike? Players will seemingly be in a bubble. On the road they’ll be in blocked-off sections in hotels on lower floors. They’re instructed not to take elevators. I guess most meals will be room service. Forgetting how that arrangement is far from impenetrable, at home they’ll be with their families. Who knows who family members have been with? Who knows how many wives and girlfriends and live-in uncles wear masks or go to bars in states where they’re open? Good luck to Marlin and Ray players. 

Oh… and support staff, stadium personnel, announcers, ground crew, media members – they’re not entitled to the vigilant testing. They’re on their own. And everybody has to sign waivers freeing MLB and the teams from any responsibility or damage should they come down with the virus. And you KNOW some will.  It's just a matter of how many and how serious? 

I’m guessing fans will watch the first few games of the season out of curiosity. Then the novelty will wear off and ratings will be through the floor. Announcers won't travel so they'll be calling road games off the television feed.   That should be interesting.   You're the Giants announcer calling a game from Colorado.  You're taking the Colorado feed.  All of a sudden the camera goes to the Rockies bullpen and stays there for two minutes because the Rockies announcers are talking about the bullpen.  But if you're the Giants announcer, you're stuck looking at the other team's bullpen for no reason.  Like I said -- a joke. 

And the only suspense will be who gets out of this alive? Even, if by some miracle, the season and post-season is played out, no one is going to take the World Series champion seriously. With no importance, no excitement, and no fan involvement why do this? And the answer is:



Michael said...

I completely agree with you. The NFL is also going to make players start reporting to training camps soon despite a long list of unaddressed concerns from the players who will be at even higher risk than baseball players. My guess their season will be a farce as well.

Bob Gassel said...

I agree with virtually every point you made, but that being said, I enjoy the distraction.

Lyle said...

Great commentary. Totally agree.

Y'know . . you write so well I think you just might be able to make a career of it!

Keep up the great work.

A faithful reader every morning.

lyle e davis

DwWashburn said...

Excellent. I've been saying this since early May but not as eloquently. Each March I buy the MLB.TV package but for this year I consider it to be wasted money as I am not going to watch any of the games.

This is a joke season. DH, massive interleague play, fake men on second during the 10th, virus in the air of the dugout. And the unbalanced schedule favors the two NY teams and the Dodgers (what a surprise). Cy Young, MVP, ROY -- who cares this year? All stats will be tainted. Imagine a Cy Young winner starting only nine games.

See you in 2021 (hopefully).

Don Graf said...

All valid points, but there’s still top notch entertainment when broadcasters like Jason Benetti and Steve Stone are already in mid-season form.

Paul Ciliano said...

Completely agree.

stephen catron said...

I have no problem with it. The players have a choice to play or not so if they wish to, let them. Everyone does actually.
It's a novelty act of a season but they have to start sometime.

iamr4man said...

Regarding testing, have you seen the LA Times article regarding Sports testing being prioritized? It’s really pretty disgusting.

On July 2, Dr. Adrian Burrowes, a family medicine physician in central Florida, saw a patient who feared he might have contracted COVID-19. So he had the patient tested and submitted the test to a lab.

Sixteen days later, he’s still waiting for the results.

That same day, less than half an hour away in Orlando, about 180 players and staff members from four Major League Soccer teams had a similar test performed upon checking into their hotel. Their results came back within hours.

“I have a major problem with that,” Burrowes said.
“We’re in a crisis situation where we’re setting records almost daily in terms of how many people are turning positive for COVID-19. And I can’t get the results back on a patient of mine. Meanwhile, these pro sports teams are being tested daily to semi-daily and getting the results back immediately. In some cases, they’re using the same lab.”

sanford said...

Or as Don Ohlmeyer so aptly put it. "The answer to all your questions is: Money."

Arthur Mee said...

Well, I wrote about this as a comment on your previous post, and agree with all your points. Me, I will not be watching or listening to any baseball this year. Not because the product will be dull (it will be), but because at some point, someone will die because of this stupid decision. Oh, maybe not a player -- maybe it will be a member of the staff, or a member of their families, or a coach, or a reporter, or a member of *their* families. (Or a player.)

But it will happen. And there will be handwringing, and memorials, and pious tributes, and "somber reflection" about this completely avoidable situation.

And I want no part of it.

sanford said...

A Friday question. Do you know of any movies that were turned down in which some other studio picked it up and became a hit. The question came from a Quora question. There were two answers. One was Home Alone The studio wanted Hughes to cut the budget. It was relatively small for the time. He eventually went to Fox where the movie made a ton. The other movie mentioned was Back to the Future It was turned down 40 times. Eventually Spielberg picked it and as they say the rest is history.

Buttermilk Sky said...

A competent government would have the virus under control here (as in South Korea, New Zealand and other places), and MLB could be playing a truncated schedule. Baseball went on through two world wars, but 2020 will be an asterisk.

Dave H said...

There are only 26 new cases in Toronto today. That's why it's a good idea to keep baseball out.:) By the way it's Natalie Wood day on TCM. Just letting you know Ken in case you didn't.:)

Kevin In Choconut Center said...

I agree with you completely, Ken. This season will be a complete farce for baseball. For the NFL, as well, if they insist on going through with things.

Jrandall said...

what about all the unemployed people, who can't pay their cable bill, so they can't watch the games anyway...guess they could listen on the radio, but they are unemployed so they can't pay the electric bill or afford let's pay the millionaires their big salaries for a joke season anyway and the rest of us will collect unemployment of $250 a week anyway.
If I had $50 million I wouldn't play either - I'd be in my backyard with an adult beverage NOT missing pro sports even a little!!

Roger Owen Green said...

I've never understood how they come back this year. I also have SERIOUS doubts about the NFL. And if the NBA players are going to sneak out of their bubble, well, that's going to be a bust too.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Stephen Catron: the *players* have a choice, but I bet that's much less true for lots of the staff and others.

The NBA recently had a couple of players break the bubble rules to pick up takeout food. There will be a lot of that sort of thing.

Tennis has been trying to run some exhibitions. Result: several top players, the wife of one of them, and the coach of another tested positive a few days later. They want to run tournaments in DC and Cincinnati, as well as the US Open with the players all quarantined, allowed only one staff each, and constantly tested. Some of the European players won't - or can't because of travel restrictions - play, diminishing the meaning of the event. They want to run the French Open (usually in May) a few weeks later, and of course travel from US is currently restricted... There's a real issue for the lower-ranked tennis players, though, as many of them make very little money, but that can and should be solved by the tours giving them support. Wimbledon, which had pandemic insurance but I think announced as far back as March that it wouldn't be played, has issued prize money to everyone who would have appeared in the main draw, which is decent.


Anonymous said...

The push to play ball again is partly about money -
but how badly are the billionaire owners really being hurt?
- but equally about politics. No NFL during election season
is not a good look for the GOP...

Kevin said...

I only agree that this season is kind of a waste. But it'd be a waste with no baseball at all, too. So, we agree that the winners and statistics and awards are all with a big * this season.

With that said, I disagree that they should skip the season. Let us have this one distraction. This one tiny slice of watching the best baseball players do what they do. If MLB was smart they'd mic up the players, the coaches & umpires and make it a "reality show" type vibe. Give us some insight into what these guys are saying to each other during this unique setting.

As a Dodgers fan, it's pretty frustrating that most of us have been denied coverage of games thanks to the SportnetLA bullshit. Now many of us finally get the channel and it's during this experiment. But I know I'll welcome the distraction and I'll still enjoy watching the other team swing out of their shoes trying to hit a Kershaw curve ball. Why be such a Debbie Downer? It's better than being stuck with "United We Fall" on ABC.

blinky said...

Did you see Dwight Howard doesn't believe in vaccinations and won't wear a mask?

Another example of Americas failed education system.
Imagine a whole region like that. I'm talking to you :The South!

erich said...

I agree Ken! Really hard to get excited by this season, especially when there's reminders all over the field that people are dying every day.

Just a point of clarification I learned watching the Mariners live stream with Jerry Dipoto as a guest-- He informed Dave Simms and Gary Hill that MLB will provide additional angles outside of broadcast for the announcers calling from home. Simms and Hill were elated when they were told this-- Dipoto also suggested they'd put it all up on the diamond vision for them too.

Amazing what innovative things that can be motivated by, yeah... MONEY.

Charles Bryan said...

In Northern Michigan, a team in the independent Northwoods League decided to create two teams to play against. Mostly college players, everyone stayed local. Another team in Southern Michigan did likewise and, at season's end, the best Northern team would play the best Southern team.

Except now, after playing two weeks of games, COVID had hit the Northern group enough that they're down to two teams (and they had to stop play for two weeks to reshuffle players).

I understand why they got optimistic; things were looking somewhat better for a while. But now - yeesh.

Edward said...

I saw an obituary for actress Brandis Kemp, who starred on ABCs "Friday's" sketch comedy show and then was a regular on "AfterMash" which you worked on.

I did watch "Friday's" as a young teenager but only recall Melanie Chartoff who was the 'news' anchor. Much later in life did I realize that Larry David and Michael Richards were regulars on the show.

Craig Russell said...

I hope everyone stays safe and all, but I gotta be honest. Im a White Sox fan...I can only watch the 2005 Series on repeat for so long. And I have watched wiffle ball highlights.

Yes, wiffle ball highlights. Its on You Tube. Id rather watch this "season" if nothing more than for something to do. Let them all make their money, hope for a vaccine and have 2021 be for real.

Anonymous said...

on another note it's Natalie Wood's birthday today.

VincentS said...

Amen, Ken. Frequent testing? As some one who has been tested, I can say unequivocally that NO ONE would ever want to go through that test twice. They shove a swab way way WAY up both nostrils. It was so painful I was clutching the chair in agony. My cousin, a relatively young, healthy, active man has been stricken and is "no where near out of the woods," according to my aunt. Know where he lives? Florida.

Unknown said...

I don't miss it. MLB was kind of lost on me when they went on strike 2 decades ago. A bunch of millionaires battling a bunch of billionaires. I knew a beer vendor, and they only got screwed. I'm sure someone will say, hold a grudge much? But it left a bad taste in my mouth and they've done nothing to bring it back.

To take a family of 4 to a ball game in Chicago, is waaaaaaay to expensive now. You can get a decent price for tickets at a Sox game (no one goes), but to park, get something to eat, it's almost a mortgage payment.

just MOHO

VP81955 said...

As a Nationals fan still jubilant over that unexpectedly magical October 2019 -- thank you (grand slam at Chavez Ravine), thank you (NLCS MVP), thank you (home run off the Houston foul pole), Howie Kendrick -- the 2020 season will seem terribly anticlimactic. I'll watch, if only to see this bizarre test tube sprint of a season, and cross my fingers no one in the game (player, staff, whatever) is seriously hurt. And by its very socially distant on-field nature, MLB might be the best equipped of the "big four" sports to handle this were all the games in Canada (kudos to the NHL for keeping action north of the border, not that Kings or Ducks fans will care).

And just wait until football, both college and pro, try to get under way. No college game (especially in the football-uber-alles South) or NFL (a nuclear bomb on the TV industry)? Millions of males will be in revolt. It's going to be perverse fun, gang.

VP81955 said...

One more bit of news: Dr. Anthony Fauci (a real-life Nationals fan) will throw out the first pitch in D.C. Thursday (something I suggested at a Nats fan site a few weeks ago, not that I had anything to do with it). Trump must be livid.

Alan Gollom said...

As a Torontonian who loves the Blue Jays, I'm thrilled that they will not be playing here this season. Combine a 60 game MLB schedule and the fact that the NHL wants to play hockey in the summer just illustrates how ludicrous sports is this year. Give it all a rest. Don't put the players and everyone associated with the teams at risk. Sports just isn't that important.

D McEwan said...

"no one is going to take the World Series champion seriously."


Who takes a World Series Championship "seriously"? What is serious about this trivial children's game? It's only reason to exist that I can see is so you can prove you're an American in bad movies about World War II. ("Don't shoot! I'm an American!" "Prove it! Who won the World Series in 1937?" "I don't know! I said I was an American. I said nothing about being a baseball fan. You prove to ME you're American! Who won the Best Actress Oscar for 1939?" (It was Vivian Leigh.)

Usually I just skip reading your baseball posts, as I have skipped seeing any baseball game since the last one I went to, back in 1966, but I read this one, and really enjoyed it. Seeing you, of all people, having to plead that MLB STOP really tickled my shadenfreude.

And yes, they should stop playing baseball, preferably forever. This horrible, horrible year has had ONE good thing happen amidst all the horror: the cessation of sports. Now MLB is RUINING the only good thing about 2020.

D McEwan said...

"sanford said...
A Friday question. Do you know of any movies that were turned down in which some other studio picked it up and became a hit?"

Well, the original Star Wars must be the biggest classic example. They say that George Lucas let Universal have Howard the Duck, when it was obvious that this duck would turn out to be a giant turkey, to "repay" Universal for turning down Star Wars.

MikeN said...

Before MLB announced its start of the season, people were saying if the players and owners can't reach an agreement baseball will be dead, just like the other most popular sports of the 1960s- boxing and horse racing.

Griff said...

"sanford said...
A Friday question. Do you know of any movies that were turned down in which some other studio picked it up and became a hit?"

There are many, many examples, of course. Both United Artists and Universal turned down STAR WARS. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was originally set up at Columbia, but the studio began to have misgivings about the movie being filmed in black-and-white and Fox acquired the project. Spielberg developed E.T. at Columbia, but the studio had reservations about it and eventually sold the unproduced project to Universal, retaining a small percentage of the gross of the picture.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I read now that 72 NFL players tested positive (news was four days ago, apparently). Washington, DC tennis tournament has now been cancelled, so I assume Cincinnati and US Open will follow. I know people want distraction, but if we kill the players this year we won't have any left for next year.


MikeKPa. said...

Part of games is the rise and fall of fans' emotions during the game and how the players feed off that. I was half-hoping for a photo of Natalie Wood (maybe at a Dodgers game) since it was what would have been her 82nd birthday.

Rebecca said...

From a gal in Toronto I was very happy to hear that games will not be played here. We are doing a really good job of containing the virus and we don't need American players coming in adding to our numbers. I also don't agree with the NHL hub cities. Everyone should have a low key summer and if that includes no sports - so be it!

godoriz said...

No fans in the stands? How about this idea: Start filling the seats with photo cutouts of people who have died from Covid-19. As the "season" progresses, the teams will be able to play for an audience of their deceased fans.

What horrid, self-serving idea this faux season is, on every level.

ScarletNumber said...


In case you are reading this Good Will Hunting was originally supposed to be produced by Castle Rock, but Rob Reiner ended up selling it to Harvey Weinstein and Miramax.

MSOLDN said...

I’m always glad baseball is being played, even in the current freakish conditions, but the Marlins’ Covid outbreak is already proving your fears were spot on, Ken! If it happens to a second team on the same scale, the season will certainly be scrapped.

mike said...

Agree 140%.