“I hope, as a baseball fan, we have a baseball season this year.” “I don’t think it’s going to look like any other baseball season we’ve seen before,” says Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball,” says actor James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams.
We’ve seen some unreal moments when our constant has returned after tragedy. President George W. Bush spotting up a ceremonial first pitch in the World Series post-9/11. David Ortiz addressing the Fenway Park crowd after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Game 3 of the 1989 World Series being played 10 days after the earthquake. We’re sure to see some unreal moments of similar nature when we’re back in action this time—but what makes our current situation different is that it won’t be an instant occurrence.
It will be gradual—and that same gradual nature is why baseball may return this year.
There can’t be a ‘safe’ ruling for a virus quite like when Boston was deemed safe again and they gave Ortiz the microphone. As various stay-at-home orders are lifted by state, the baseball world will also be lifted into a gradual return. Just how gradual that return is will dictate what the unreal return-from-tragedy moments will look like—and it could mean we’ll see several. That first pitch in perhaps a proposed Cactus and Grapefruit League realignment. The first player we see in uniform, perhaps only on our televisions. The first games back in big league stadiums. The first games with crowds—perhaps a limited ticket collection—allowed through the gates.
Baseball could be the only sports constant to suit up amidst this pandemic, as the Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla says. “It’s not a game of bumping and grinding.” “I’m also crazy enough to believe, if we’re willing to adapt to a weird new normal, there can be live sports for us to watch on television this year.”
We’re sure to see a gradual build-up to the full display of baseball we love, and no matter how long it takes for that full display to return, we’ll cherish those once-normal moments even more than before. A right field rooftop filled with people. A kid going home with a ball in hand. A thunderous applause when the chorus of God Bless America hits “from the mountains” at Coors Field. We’ll all have a moment that hits our emotions like a steamroller. “It’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again,” says James Earl Jones.
“It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.” We’ll be marking that time again—in grand fashion.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper dives into the harsh reality for minor league teams in 2020; if we’re having a tough time formulating a plan for the big leaguers, we’re even further from having one for the minor leaguers.
The MLB Draft in 2020 “could be slashed to as few as five rounds,” according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. A domino effect would ensue; such a drastic cut in draft picks would result in an abundance of would-be selections becoming undrafted free agents. Players that would otherwise be the ones filling out rosters for teams like the Grand Junction Rockies or Boise Hawks would be left playing a waiting game for what they need to do to get into pro ball.
Other policies could create an even bigger domino effect: are the proposals from last October to eliminate 42 minor league teams more likely to happen?
A current halt to minor league revenue puts an interesting and unfortunate twist on what it could mean for many affiliates. The current Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) for minor league teams will expire before the 2021 season. Negotiations for a revised agreement are thereby placed in unprecedented times, a cutback proposal before the pandemic meeting a new set of financial struggles from unused stadium turnstiles. Both MLB and MiLB must agree to a new PBA prior to the 2021 season.
The current PBA states that minor league games cannot be played after September, so simply delaying a full season for a few months wouldn’t work under current policy.
Baseball may take a little while to get back to normal, and the impact of a limited draft is just one of many things that can cause a domino effect for years to come. Peter Gammons discusses a ‘three-year normalizing process’, and addresses how the MLB Commissioner’s Office has been praised for hearing out a multitude of suggestions.
★ ★ ★
It seems only fitting to address the scheduled Field of Dreams game between the Yankees and White Sox this year after our first link. The game appears less likely for 2020 as postponements go on, but as of the beginning of April, field construction continues in Dyersville, Iowa. It suggests people will come, even if it’s a little later than we first thought.
(I found James Earl Jones’ speech to be extra special in these current times. It reminds us of what is good—and will be again.)