Baseball stuck in the on-deck circle

Bruce Penton - From the Bleachers
Written by ECA Review

In baseball, it’s three strikes and you’re out.

Two out, bottom of the ninth. …the count is 0-and-2. 

Here’s the windup … the pitch … it’s a low fastball on the corner …. the batter swings … he makes contact …

Who knows if that ball will fall into for a single, or a double off the wall, or maybe a home run. 

What we do know is that it could also be a popup to first base and put Major League Baseball in its most precarious situation since the 1994 lockout.

Like every other sport and every other facet of society, baseball was shut down in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A date for a fresh start of the season has been in constant negotiation and, naturally, money is at the root of the discussions.

Major League Baseball owners have said games could be played without fans in the stands, but insist on financial concessions. 

Players have agreed to a pro-rated salary structure, meaning, for example, if they played an 81-game schedule, they would receive 50 per cent of their contracted salaries. 

No surprise here: the Players are calling for a schedule in excess of 100 games; the owners say a 51-game schedule will suffice. 

Neither side is happy. They will probably meet somewhere in the middle, with a truly irregular ‘regular’ season starting sometime in July and running through October.

Proposals by the owners call for 14 teams to make the playoffs, with much of November used to whittle down the survivors to determine a World Series champion

It won’t seem real to avid ball fans, this proposal of a bastardized season. No roaring crowds. Designated hitters will be used in both leagues. A pitcher winning 10 games might earn credentials for a Hall of Fame claim. 

But despite the truncated season and all the other abnormalities of 2020, games will apparently be played and Canada’s Sportsnet, owned by Rogers Media, which also owns the Toronto Blue Jays, will beam all of the Jays’ games across the country. 

It will help to alleviate the financial pain experienced by Sportsnet, not to mention easing fans’ pain of sports-watching withdrawal.

Let’s hope that ball fell in for a ground-rule double. The rally is underway. Let’s keep it going.

Slap Shots

• Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times, on MLB’s financial squabbles not being a good optic: “Baseball is engaged in a bench-clearing brawl with itself.”

• Bob Molinaro of (Hampton, Va.): “Major League Baseball’s offer of a 50-game schedule has to be a joke. It takes more than 50 games for a baseball season to clear its throat.”

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Some sports movies we’d like to see: “Sitting Out The Last Dance”: Post-Jordan Bulls fail to reach NBA Finals for 21st straight year;  “Moneybawl”: Pay squabbles scuttle 2020 baseball season; “Chariots Afire”: NASCAR adds another division featuring Corvairs and Pintos.”

• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “In the off-season, the NFL is considering a number of rule changes including new rules on touchdown celebrations. ‘What is a touchdown celebration?’ asked the Cincinnati Bengals.”

• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “A bat used by Lou Gehrig sold for $1 million. There is only one baseball bat in the world worth $1 million. It’s the one with a cheque for $999,000 taped to the barrel.”

• Broncos RB Melvin Gordon, via Twitter, on how playing for the Chargers in L.A. was good preparation for this year’s pandemic-altered NFL season: “Bro, we didn’t have fans anyway . . . So I’m not missing anything.”

• Dave Spect, via Facebook, after the girlfriend of Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge asked officers ‘Do you know who my boyfriend is?’ when she was arrested for DUI: “Soon she’ll know two judges.”

• Patti Dawn Swansson, aka the River City Renegade: “Whichever outfit wins the Stanley Cup, it’ll be the first time in history that no one from the winning outfit will shout, ‘We couldn’t have done this without our fans!’”

• Alex Kaseberg again: “The Minnesota Vikings have to sign Colin Kaepernick.”

• RJ Currie of “The PGA cancelled the July, 2020, John Deere Classic due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, Dear — No Deere.”

• From “Bills rookie quarterback Jake Fromm apologizes for texting that ‘only elite white people’ should be able to afford guns. Will be punished by having to play for the Bills.”

• Dwight Perry again: “A two-year-old colt named Fauci finished second at Belmont Park’s belated opening day of racing, by 4¾ lengths. Or for you social-distancing fans, roughly 38 feet.”

• Comedy writer Brad Dickson, via Twitter, after Cornhuskers football coach Scott Frost taped a public-service announcement endorsing medical care during the pandemic: “After listening to his deadly dull monotone, I now know why Nebraska usually plays bad in the third quarter.”

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By Bruce Penton

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ECA Review

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