Baseball is in such a deep freeze right now because of the coronavirus, you'd think this was the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately, the nasty bug is doing a number on our favorite sport just like it has practically everything else (incredibly, the WWE is continuing to wrestle).
This year's fashion trend?
(c) Australian Broadcasting Company
Players don't like the forced inaction any better than the fans do and this has led to some interesting proposals to get players back on the field. Arizona player Nick Ahmed said the players union was considering going back to work with players donning medical masks. He claims some of the Asian leagues are already doing this.
Certainly, catchers are already used to wearing masks as is anyone who played through broken facial bones. But these masks aren't the same. There are also some who question their effectiveness in actually halting the spread of virus germs. The masks are designed to block outgoing germs, not so much the incoming ones, leaving some with a false sense of security.
Others see a PR problem if baseball players take the field with these masks while hospitals and clinics complain of shortages. Bad optics.
But there are ideas how to get the sport moving again since it is estimated teams will need 3-4 weeks just to get back in playing shape. I would recommend that spring training become a series of intrasquad games perhaps played without fans to limit exposure between clubs. This way, the players get their work in but there's little chance of a league-wide epidemic.
Perhaps they could also set the rosters at 30 to begin play but without trades and without players coming up and down from the minors until a set date. Again, this is to limit contamination between work groups. MLB and the union have already agreed to a 28-player opening roster, up from the new number of 26 per team.
Another idea is to hold games at neutral sites, some even suggesting that one town can host all the games of every team just to get the season underway. I'm not sure where they can go where there are no cases although maybe a hot dry place like Yuma, AZ would be remote enough.
None of this is much to hope in right now but at least some folks are trying to think through the logistics of getting baseball started again. If they can somehow kick off the regular season by the first or second week of June then a 100-game season could still be possible which is enough to say a full season has been played (about 60%).
Meanwhile, Evan Gattis has emerged from his cave to keep the Astros scandal stirred up. First he tweeted a glass he spotted at the Flying Saucer chain of drinking establishments. The glass had an image of Mike Fiers with the caption "Snitches get stitches". Perhaps this is meant as a joke for the player who broke open the sign-stealing scandal but since Fiers has already been the subject of death threats, many did not see the humor it.
Gattis later claimed he wasn't agreeing with the message but just found it noteworthy, maybe a keepsake. Gattis, of course, is one of the players most implicated in the scandal which makes me question why he decided now was the time to kick that hornets nest yet again instead of keeping his mouth shut. El Oso Blanco has become El Oso Loco. Gattis, by the way, has retired from baseball.
Finally, ESPN received clarification from MLB that fired Astros managers Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch will complete their suspensions this year even if there's no baseball season. The suspensions were worded to say they would complete at the end of the 2020 World Series rather than a set number of games, or months. I would not expect either to be back with the Astros, however.
- Bob Hulsey