“Cautiously optimistic” seems good. Any phrase that has optimistic in it inspires the same feeling. In his press conference on Thursday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis said he had talked to Dick Monfort. Polis, a big baseball and Rockies fan, had a smile on his face, saying, “We are excited that hopefully in mid-July, we’ll welcome the Rockies back for a limited spring training in Coors Field, and then a limited regular season. And we certainly hope that the owners and the players come together soon around a final agreement.”
He also used a baseball metaphor to talk about the fluid status of COVID case numbers and outbreaks and the caution needed in reopening and following social distancing measures by comparing it to a situation we’ve all seen the Rockies win with and lose from: “The other team has bases loaded, you’re up one run, it’s the sixth inning — that’s when you are worried a little more. You are worried they could break through and bust this thing open. I am worried the virus could break through here in Colorado because it has in other states.”
Hopefully Monfort has good reason to feel cautiously optimistic, but he might have said this before Thursday’s step backward in the MLB and MLBPA settling on a deal for baseball in 2020.
The players put forth a 70-game plan that included a spring training starting June 26-28, the season going from July 19 to Sept. 30, full prorated pay, expanded playoffs in 2020 and 2021 of 16 teams, a universal DH in 2020 and 2021, and 15 other items from allocating $10 million to social justice initiatives to clubs being able to sell advertising patches on uniforms the next two seasons to opt-outs with full pay and service time for high-risk players, or players who live with high-risk individuals, who don’t feel safe playing this season.
Rob Manfred rejected the plan and told the media, “This needs to be over,” adding that the MLB had a list of issues and compromises that he and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark agreed to in their four-hour meeting on Tuesday. Clark disagrees with Manfred’s take, saying that the union never agreed. After brief optimism for negotiations on Wednesday, I am now feeling more pessimistic as the roller coaster continues.
Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla makes some valid points about how any sports that happen in the COVID-19 world we are living in are going to be weird. Everything is weird now and unlike what any of us have experienced in our lives. Of course sports are not going to be different. He also admits that we miss sports very badly. But, Kiszla centers his piece on his observation that “Like spending money in a restaurant or sitting through a meeting at the office, maybe we’ve discovered attending just any old sporting event is over-rated, especially when you have a better seat in front of a high-definition, wide-screen TV at home.”
He supports this claim with his opinion and one quote from a couple who were South Stand season-ticket holders for the Broncos for 30 years who have decided that they weren’t buying the tickets anymore because going to a game is like a rowdy bar, which is a fair criticism. They made this choice before the pandemic hit. Kiszla thinks the overpriced tickets, concessions, and parking will make fans realize it’s just not worth it anymore and owners and leagues should prepare for that.
Side note: Kiszla also mentions that his days of waiting in locker rooms with naked athletes might be done and that “Once the locker room is closed during a pandemic, it might be difficult for the media to pry open that door again.” That to me would be a cause for celebration as I have often wondered why this is the modus operandi in sports. Can the athletes just talk to media first and then go shower? Seems like a win-win for everyone. I have been a reporter in locker rooms and it’s not fun.
Anyway, back fans going to games. Maybe he’s right. I am sure some people might make the choice not to attend sporting events, and in the midst of an economic recession, tickets might become a luxury many people can’t afford, especially people who lost jobs or are struggling to just pay the bills.
However, I don’t think writing off attending live sporting events henceforth is where a lot of fans are. Maybe I am wrong. Obviously 2020 is an anomaly. Even if fans are allowed at games, many people might not feel safe this year. That could easily carry over into 2021, depending on how the spread, a vaccine, and treatments are advancing. But in a post-COVID world, I can’t wait to go to a game. I am OK with skipping face-to-face work meetings. I can temporarily get used to getting food to go from restaurants, but not forever. I have too many family members and friends, who like so many people, depend on the industry for a paycheck. Also, our society relies on these places for community and connection.
But walking through the gates at Coors Field, a place that I, like many Rockies fans, hold sacred, is not an experience I want to end. It is an instant source of soul-lifting joy even in down times for the Rockies. I still get this consuming feeling of sadness when my calendar shows “Rockies Game” a few times a month. I had tickets to see the Rockies take on the Royals on June 24 and the Diamondbacks on July 6. Every few weeks another game pops up and I can almost smell the Helton Burgers, ice-cold beer, and peanuts before the realization hits that it’s just another thing that’s been cancelled.
At this point, I would be thrilled to watch a game on TV. Any 2020 season at all would be a welcome event in the time-warped and mind-blowing existence that is 2020 right now. Watching a real-life live baseball game would probably flood me with tears of joy. In the long run, nothing can replace the feeling of going to a game. Someday, it will happen again and I will be happy to have the chance to buy a ticket.
Any positive top-10 list that has a Rockie listed is exciting, especially one not about third basemen. Coming in at No. 6 on the list is Garrett Hampson and two different scenarios in which the universal DH would help his career, and, therefore, the Rockies. Baseball America notes that Hampson hit .284/.348/.462 after the All-Star break, but he was even better in September when he hit .318/.368/.534 with five home runs and nine stolen bases (see more here). He and Sam Hilliard made the Rockies fun to watch at the end of last season when the postseason was long out of the picture.
Baseball America’s first scenario is that Daniel Murphy could be the DH, moving Ryan McMahon to first, and opening up a spot for Hampson at second. The story notes that this could be the case while Brendan Rodgers gets back to 100 percent after shoulder surgery last year. However, Bud Black said on May 20 that he believes Rodgers is “ready to go” now.
The other scenario, which could also be in combination with the first if the DH turns out to be a roaming roll for multiple Rockies, is for Ian Desmond to be DH and for David Dahl to move to left field where we could possibly avoid injuries caused by patrolling the vast realms of center field at Coors Field can yield. Instead, a quicker and more versatile Hampson could take over in center. I like both options and am always in favor of having more guys in the lineup with speed and that just seem to find a way to make more things happen.
The MLB Network is marking the Juneteenth holiday, which marks 155 years since the final slaves were freed in the United States, by airing a special edition of “MLB Tonight” and honoring players who broke barriers like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, and Rickey Henderson. The “MLB Tonight: A Conversation” will air at 3:30 p.m. ET and be broadcast on MLB.com. It “will feature a discussion on the issues of racial injustice and inequality in society and in baseball, with Fran Charles and Harold Reynolds co-hosting” with commentary from Derek Jeter, Theo Epstein, Torri Hunter, Cameron Maybin, and more. The full schedule of Friday’s programming is posted with the article.
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