In a little under two weeks, the Minnesota Twins—along with the rest of MLB squads—are scheduled to open the 2020 season. Right now, there seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding the 60-game campaign, and in many cases understandable so. Fans are being given the worst possible product simply because players and owners couldn’t reach a deal. Right when “Summer Camp” got underway, we’ve seen a spike in Covid-19 cases across the country. The “big baseball news” on a daily basis is who tested positive and who will be opting out. Couple all that with the fact that baseball, at its core, is a non-essential activity (as much as it pains me to admit). This leads to a lot of hand-wringing about whether games should be played at all, even to empty stadiums.
I can’t say that I have any foolproof rebuttals to the above scenarios. It is certainly a tricky situation all-around. But in trying to find reasons for the return of baseball, I think that compromising between “100% full go” and “absolutely nothing happening” is a big one.
When Covid-19 first reared its ugly head back in mid-March, the action taken was to essentially “close up shop” (at country, state, local, and personal levels). Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that our capitalist economy was not suited to the brakes being so screech-ingly applied. Stories abounded regarding the tanking economy and rising unemployment.
So, after a month or two of full lockdown mode, economies began to open due, in at least some capacity, to the fact that the loss of jobs and services was starting to affect the populace perhaps as badly as Covid-19 was (or would soon with a prolonged shutdown). Predictably, infection cases began to rise due to that loosening of social distancing on a macro level, and that’s where the country currently finds itself.
No one wants Covid-19 rampaging like an out-of-control wildfire, yet we’ve realized that a complete government shutdown is untenable over the long term. Logically, then, it seems like a compromise needs to be reached somewhere of the middle of those two scenarios. Essentially, that is what a 60-game, heavily-managed baseball season is to MLB.
From what I can tell, MLB is doing its best on the safety aspects of its return. Fan-less stadiums are the slam-dunk here, of course, but pages upon pages of distancing and cleanliness guidelines have been given to each club. Allowing players the opportunity to opt-out and not be heavily penalized for doing so was also a must. In recent days there seems to have been a bit of a hubbub regarding the accuracy of testing, but I’m crossing my fingers this is the result of being the first time testing procedures have been implemented in any major sport, and thus there are inevitably going to be hiccups.
Sure, the easiest solution seems to be to scrap everything, say “baseball can survive this”, and wait for 2021, but I like to think of the sport as “just another business” whenever possible. It represents the livelihoods of its members and is basically an industry to itself, from numerous journalism outlets to TV deals that make clubs more money than butts in the seats, in many cases. The damage such a layoff could do to the sport is worrisome.
The other day, I was talking with one of my brothers and he happened to bring up a point I hadn’t considered, which was that baseball could really be seen as a leader in all of this. While MLB’s reputation is sullied right now due to bad blood at the bargaining table, it has a chance to lead the way in bringing an enormous sporting operation back during an incredibly difficult time. It won’t be perfect by a long shot, and only time will tell if it can be accomplished to completion in October, but again it represents a “better than nothing” scenario while also not being reprehensibly dangerous.
The long and short of it is that the entire population is dealing with a unique scenario unlike anything those currently living have ever experienced. Total lockdown doesn’t seem to be the answer, yet total freedom is just as unwise. Figuring out the safest way forward in the fearful scenario seems best, albeit incredibly complicated. That is how/why I’m currently mustering up excitement for the 2020 season. Not because it represents a fraction of the usual competitive nature of a season, but because it represents progress towards that state of compromise.