We’ve talked some about what games might look like without fans. It’s going to be weird, quiet, and slightly depressing not to have the crowd noise and buzz in the stadium. However, something we’ve not thought about is what’s it going to be like inside the dugout?
After yesterday’s solicitation for thoughts to write about went so well, I went back to the well again yesterday. Which brought me this response:
— The Todd Squad (@todsqd) May 6, 2020
This is a really interesting idea to think about, isn’t it? The original plans, of course, talked about players sitting in the empty stands. However, given how they are going to be living in close quarters with each other, that would seem to be more theater than actual need. So if you have these guys in the dugout, but with the idea that they are going to limit contact, what does that look like?
Does that mean more team ritual dances/celebrations that don’t require touching? Does that mean that the traditional butt pats and high fives get put on the shelf for a while? I gotta think that players aren’t going to be able to unlearn what they have learned over years of playing the game and celebrating with their teammates. Somebody’s going to slip, someone’s going to go through with a high five. Though, perhaps, the forearm bash of Mark McGwire makes a bit of a comeback?
Does it really matter, though? Just like the players not sitting in the dugout, the lack of touching might be more for the cameras than anything else. If they are going to be in that close of proximity on a regular basis, odds are there will be many ways to catch the virus if one player is infected. Still, I imagine that along with bubble gum and sunflower seeds, hand sanitizer will be pretty prevalent in the dugout.
Will the players need to wear masks while they are sitting on the bench? With expanded rosters there will be more bodies in the same amount of space. Playing in masks is out of the question, but that could be an interesting new ritual, to see players come in after a half-inning, toss their glove down, and pick up their mask. I’d love to see them be able to have some personalized ones, like Kolten Wong‘s arm sleeve (that inexplicably got banned by MLB). I mean, Paul Goldschmidt would have the team-issued one with the STL logo, but Harrison Bader is totally getting one with the New York skyline or some fancy colors that match his wardrobe.
I do wonder if there will be fewer people actually on the bench and more in the clubhouse, where there is more room. It might be that just the starters are on the bench, with a pinch-hitter or two allowed a few batters before to get a gauge of the pitcher. That would make for some empty dugouts, which would be another strange visual.
I assume all of these things would be relevant for the bullpen as well. I don’t know what the transit time from clubhouse to bullpen would be, but maybe only one or two arms are out there, with others being dispatched if it looks like they might be needed. Which might be a manager’s solution to the hi-jinx that relievers get up to. Then again, this way they are closer to him, so perhaps that’s not going to be the relief the skipper would expect.
I imagine that, if baseball does restart, we’ll see some differences in the dugout. Just another sacrifice to try to get games back in 2020.