MLB may not return to normal before 2023

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Wrigley Field, along with 29 other major league ball fields, remains empty today. It is likely to remain empty for the remainder of what would have been the major league baseball season 2020, despite Paul Sullivan’s call in the Grandstand to play baseball later this season in major league parks. This, I think, is unworkable due to travel restrictions and some cities and states that are not even ready for rallies the size needed to host a baseball game this summer.

What worries me even more are the comments from an anonymous Red Sox executive interviewed by Peter Gammons for this article in The Athletic:

“In 2020,” said the official, “we just have to try to recover the match. Then we have 2021 and 2022 to rebuild attendance and revenue, to determine where it takes agency free, arbitration, draft, and other player compensation. Let’s face it – baseball will not be the same, just as the world as we know it will not be the same. What we need to do now and over the next two years is to focus on what we want baseball to be in 2023. ”

Sensational. 2023? Three years before seeing baseball in a form similar to the one we left at the end of the 2019 season?

But if you think about it more, it is likely that no aspect of life in America will be the same as it was before the closings of most major activities last month. Large gatherings such as a baseball crowd – or perhaps even a theater or movie crowd – may not be allowed until 2021. Many restaurants will no longer operate as before; some may close. Baseball is therefore certainly not immune to these changes.

Gammons continues by describing the difficulties that the teams and the MLB will have with player development and minor league matches not only this year, but perhaps for the next two:

“This is not a game where you can read an exit speed and a pitch speed and declare someone a major league player,” said an executive director of the American League. “Young players have to play. Position players need repetitions and defensive and baserunning situations and repetitions. Throwers need innings and, in many cases, tries in different roles followed by the learning process of repeating success. This does not happen on laptops. ”

All of this is true and I noticed a few days ago how likely there will be no minor league season this year. On the other hand, if the Arizona Bubble League occurs, minor leaguers could end up saving playing time, even if these games come down to glorified intrasquad competitions:

“Assuming we play major league games during this period, we can understand the logistics of home and road games,” said an American League general manager whose team trains in Arizona. “We’re going to need what amounts to taxi crews. We’re going to have to play doubles so that the pitchers who get injured get a good job. We can have younger players who, after two or three years of career, have to step back and find themselves just playing. “

Gammons also raises this issue, which I don’t think has been discussed elsewhere:

If Florida is badly damaged for two or three years due to the spread of the coronavirus, can baseball continue to exist in this state? Can Cleveland continue to maintain major league baseball in a northern rust belt state? The club has one of the smartest and most creative sporting directions, but the city has experienced a population drop of 58% since the team’s last World Series win. Austin, Charlotte, Nashville and Portland now have more residents.

So, in another country, does MLB rethink contraction? Personally, I felt bad when I heard someone who has known Orioles property inside and out for more than 30 years say this spring, “I am very worried about the future of the Orioles in five or ten years. “

There is no doubt that if you create something called “Major League Baseball” from scratch, without thinking of preexisting cities, leagues, divisions or relationships, there are several MLB cities that almost certainly would not have teams . Milwaukee, Kansas City and Cincinnati, in addition to Cleveland, could be outside. To read this quote about the Orioles, which have been one of MLB’s main franchises for several decades, give you food for thought. Gammons continues:

MLB has banned Baltimore zone rights to bring the Expos from Montreal to Washington. True, the Orioles are now facing this steep rise in the income market and the cityscape despite Camden Yards, but would Atlanta be suddenly injured if Nashville were released for the Rays, or would the Rangers and Astros be irreparably injured if the athletics moved to Austin, with San Antonio less than 80 miles on Interstate 35?

It has been said in some places that MLB could rush to expansion once the pandemic is over, as the expansion franchise fees could make up for some of the millions that owners lose while the game is closed. But the kind of people who could make billions for expansion teams are probably losing money in these difficult times. It may not be as easy to find such people in a post-pandemic period.

To return briefly to the question of whether or not we will have a season in 2020, I draw your attention to this article by Tyler Kepner in New York Times. Although players and owners reached an agreement in late March regarding a possible season and the type of compensation they could get if the game happened, consider this:

When the Major League Baseball and the players’ unions agreed on new ground rules for the delayed season on March 26 – the first day of operation – they stipulated that the parties “would discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or on suitable neutral substitution sites. “

There seems to be disagreement, says Kepner, regarding the wording “discuss economic feasibility in good faith”. Players seem to think it means “if we play, we get paid pro rata based on the number of games.” The owners, however, seem to believe that further discussions would be necessary because if an “Arizona Bubble League” or something similar occurs, their revenues could be down 40% because they would not have fans who would buy tickets, concessions, etc., even though the owners would still have television revenues. As Kepner notes:

With so many unknowns about the details and practicality of a season, there is no plan to even begin talks between the league and the players. But the sides dig, behind the scenes, for a potentially awkward confrontation. They just hope to have a reason to fight.

All of this makes 2019 seem like such a simple period, even if it was last year. I was at a baseball game just 39 days ago on March 11 at Sloan Park. That night, NBA star Rudy Gobert tested positive for the new coronavirus and the NBA closed its season with baseball and other sports and other businesses, cities and states quickly.

Here is the last play performed at Wrigley Field, Nico Hoerner flying away to the central field [VIDEO] to end a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on September 22, 2019.

I think it will take a long time for me to be in the stands at Wrigley Field or Sloan Park to watch a game, probably 2021 if not later. I still hope there will be some form of baseball in 2020, if it can be done safely, and there is no guarantee of that. But baseball as we knew it before? Not for long, and it could take years before we feel it is still close to what it was.

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