Disclaimer: We often use sports as entertainment or an escape, or because it legitimately brings us joy. Right now, we don’t have those things and we are trying to cope with that, along with everything else that’s happening in the coronavirus pandemic. While we at Purple Row want to talk baseball, we also find ourselves in uncharted territory. So, I am doing something a little different with this Rockpile. The first two post address big issues centered around the possible long-term impacts of the pandemic and the sports world. Then the remaining posts will get back to the Rockies, which is probably why you usually come to our site. Regardless of where you are or how this is affecting you, please take care of yourselves, your loved ones, and your communities. (Here is an article on ideas to help manage anxiety during a pandemic.)
Opening up with how this pandemic has already affected everyone’s lives, MLB columnist Tim Brown confronts some harsh realities in these times of uncertainty. The sports world is paused, along with so many other facets of life.
Brown makes a good point that sports administrators, mostly focusing on MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, are just that: experts in their fields and not public health or medical professionals. They are also humans experiencing this just like everyone else. They are transitioning to working at home, having kids at home, and going through this just like everyone else. They are also basing decisions on shutdowns and postponements, like all other businesses, on assumptions, data, and information that changes every day, if not every hour. This is all while concerns mount for player pay at all levels, as well as pay for stadium workers and the outward economic ripple effect everywhere.
That’s why there is no start date or specific plan on how to shorten the season, if indeed there is one. Ideas are emerging from a shortened season, more doubleheaders, and expanded rosters, and I am sure we will see more. However, Brown is right on when he says, “Plans for tomorrow, next week, next month, this summer, no matter how considered and well-intentioned, are long jump shots in the wind.”
He also brings up the important “what if” about a possible second wave of the virus. By all accounts, the number of cases and related impacts are going to keep increasing for weeks, if not months, as the spread continues and testing increases.
Brown writes about a hypothetical scenario where the measures that are being taken now do help and health officials loosen restrictions so that sometime later this summer baseball returns. But then a player gets sick and it turns out he has COVID-19. What happens? Does baseball stop again?
In the 1918 Flu Pandemic, there was a second wave in the fall after the first wave in the spring, and then a third wave the following year (as you can see here in the CDC timeline).
We’ve watched the number of cases in China drastically fall and no new cases are being reported, thankfully. This was after they completely shut down a region of 60 million people. Now experts are wondering what will happened when the restrictions are lifted. A second wave of COVID-19 could hit, but only time will tell. That same model could follow in Europe and then the United States.
Brown admits the “hypotheticals are hard and exhausting.” However, it has to be something Manfred and all sports leagues are thinking about. It is just hard and exhausting for all of us.
This article takes a look the possible long-term impact the sidelining of sports could have on broadcast networks and cable providers. In a world where many people are already cutting cable and going to streaming, this could cause even more to do so. One of the biggest reasons a lot of people still have cable is for sports, especially regional channels that cover games when streaming options face local blackouts.
With no games to air and people ending services, the reporters Dylan Byers and Ahiza Garcia-Hodges forecast that “The entire television business could, over time, collapse.” Contracts that require leagues to provide live games could be altered because of uncontrollable circumstances and things could go on hold to allow all parties to get by in the short term. They then quote federal government reports that the pandemic could last 18 months or longer. (Here is an Atlantic article on this.)
Facing an extended absence, how could national networks like ESPN make it, let alone smaller channels like AT&T Rocky Mountain and Altitude? That could extend to stations like NBC, ABC, and CBS, who all depend on sports contacts for a large portion of their budgets.
The article ends with a dire statement: “If that is the case, the television industry should brace for radical change.”
Facing realities that it will be at least a while before play starts back up again, Bud Black is doing the best he can to manage his pitchers. Jack Etkin reports that Black has instructed Rockies pitchers to go back to pre-spring training mentalities and imagine it’s December or January again.
Pitchers had geared up for spring training and started to build pitch counts to around 50 or 60. Now Black is telling them to stop that progression and focus more on conditioning with cardio workouts, weightlifting, and playing catch. Etkin quotes Black to sum it up:
“There’s no need to throw bullpens because we’re a ways from that and there’ll be ample time for at least the starting pitchers to get in somewhat game condition.”
The MLB has assured everyone that there will be a build up again before the official season starts, whenever that may come. Etkin also reports that, just in case, Black and general manager Jeff Bridich are also trying to brace for the worst: no 2020 season.
We don’t have live baseball, but we do have movies. So, Patrick Saunders decided to ask Bud Black for a list of his ten favorite baseball movies.
In no particular order, Black listed “The Sandlot,” “Major League,” “The Rookie,” “Eight Men Out,” “Field of Dreams,” “Bang the Drum Slowly,” “The Natural,” “Bull Durham,” “Rookie of the Year,” and “For the Love of the Game.”
It’s a great list. A Denver Post reader poll showed that “Bull Durham” is the most loved (23%) on that list as of Saturday night, followed by “The Sandlot” (18%), “Field of Dreams” and “Major League” (15%).
I think I might have a slightly different list that includes three of my favorites: “Mr. Baseball,” “42,” and “61.” Anyone else have others they would add to the list?
This is a nice column from Patrick Saunders where he leads with an anecdote about telling a neighbor kid what he does for a living and the kid responding, “that’s a silly job.” Saunders admits that in the big picture, especially during a pandemic, it is indeed a silly job. But it’s also a job that he loves and allows him to document history of our national pastime. He ends with the joy of knowing he’ll be able to resume his silly job one day. We all look forward to that day too.
Speaking of writing, there is a great article from a University of Virginia historian who recommends that people keep a journal or blog or somehow document life during this pandemic.
It’s a way of recording history and could help us all process this too. I am going to try out journaling seriously for the first time in my life to record what’s happening, but also to talk about what it’s like to not have baseball. To document my withdrawals on Opening Day, which was a date I was fully planning on using my one-day-a-year “personal day” to not go to work because it should be a national holiday. It’s better than a birthday. It’s a day I look forward to all year and one that is now not currently scheduled. I think it would be cool if we wrote as a Purple Row community and maybe we could share them someday when we come through this. Maybe it will help us appreciate and love baseball even more than we already do.
Even in all the uncertainly, we can once again look to Gerardo Parra to bring us happiness. The former Rockie is playing in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants. Although the NPB has delayed the start of its regular season, they are currently playing spring exhibition games without fans. When Parra made a diving catch to rob a BayStar of a base hit, thankfully it was shared on Twitter.