If you are A) a Star Wars fan or B) been around me for any length of time, you know that, in The Empire Strikes Back, C-3PO tells Han Solo that the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3,720 to one.
Right now, if it’s between getting through an asteroid field or getting to a baseball game in 2020, take your chances with the flying rocks.
Yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become not only famous through all this but one of the most trusted names when it comes to the coronavirus, said that he thought perhaps the bubble idea, of teams quarantining themselves in Arizona (or, if you want two bubbles, Arizona and Florida) could work in theory. However, that seems to be the only way baseball would happen this season.
Fauci was also talking about fan-free football, which means there’s little to no chance that 40,000 people are going to file through the Busch Stadium turnstiles in 2020. If even football, which is a late August/early September real kickoff, is going to have to go through this sort of withdrawal, baseball definitely will as well, especially if they’ve gotten started on this whole quarantine-ball thing.
Of course, all the problems that we’ve discussed are still there. The real feasibility of 40 or so players (because you’d have to quarantine any possible health replacements) times however many teams, plus broadcasters, plus hotel staff, plus stadium staff, plus others I’m sure I am forgetting staying locked down so they can’t contract the virus is a huge endeavor. So huge, you wonder if baseball actually would make money on this scenario. Probably it would, but with no attendance (and having to refund all that money they’ve already taken in) and lesser TV revenue because of a lesser number of games, it might be a little more problematic.
You have to get the players to opt into this idea and it sounds like some folks aren’t that enamored. Mike Trout and Evan Longoria are having kids this summer and they aren’t going to want to miss the birth and the early months of their child’s life. Clayton Kershaw was talking about not missing four months of his son’s life, because he changes so much at the age he’s at. Those are big names. There are probably others that have a similar hesitation about being away for months without any homestands, any days off to be with family.
And that’s the things we know about. What if a family member passes away during the season? That player would have to leave, then quarantine for two weeks before being readmitted into this bubble of baseball. What if they decide they don’t want to come back? The bereavement list in baseball works in part because the player can then interact with family after he returns to playing. Having to go out to Arizona with the weight of a father or a mother being lost and seal yourself off in large part from your support group? That’s a tough ask for anyone.
All that and you start to wonder….is it worth all of this?
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see some baseball this season (and would love a reason to stop writing this series!) but how invested are you going to be in a Cardinals game with nobody in the stands? We don’t get all that fired up for spring training, in part because the games don’t mean anything but also because the crowd is small. Even then, though, there’s the buzz, there’s the cheer when something happens, there’s the guy hawking beer or cotton candy. There’s that feeling of life in the ballpark when people are in it.
I saw a highlight of I believe the Korean Baseball League a day or so ago, when the batter hit a walkoff homer to win the game. With no one in the stands, the moment seemed, well, muted. Sure, his teammates are out there cheering for him, but that’s it. The quiet would definitely be unnerving. Maybe we’d get used to it. But I can’t shake the feeling that we’d have a hard time thinking that this jerry-rigged facsimile of a season was anything worth assigning any value, any importance to.
Again, I’m sure I’d be watching every night once it returned but a large part of baseball is the roar of the crowd. (OK, so in some ballparks it’s more of a loud buzz….if that.) If we don’t get baseball the way we know it, losing the entire season might not be the worst thing.