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Baseball's back. Do we even care?
Of course we do. What kind of dumb question is that?
Look, it’s not like we ever really thought that there wasn’t going to be a baseball season. Baseball’s owners and players spent their quarantine time doing what they do best—throwing figurative bags of urine at each other—but we knew at some point they’d either agree, or the owners would shove a schedule down the players’ gullets. Either way, the game we love would return.
It’s going to be weird, and not good weird, just plain, weird. Sixty games in 66 days. The designated hitter in both leagues. Extra inning games can’t end in a tie (yet), but starting in the tenth teams will begin the inning with a runner on second base. There will be trades, and the deadline is August 31 (which is when it should be every year). There are no expanded playoffs, we’re back to the five teams in each league that we’re used to.
The rumored schedule is 40 games against teams in your own division, so 10 against the Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates and Reds. And 20 games against the teams in the other league’s “same” division. So four games against the Indians, Royals, Twins, Tigers and…I can never remember who the fifth team in the AL Central is.
Players are not allowed to show up for games more than five hours before games and have to be out within 90 minutes of the end of the game.
So, in this highly improvised season, how lucky are the Cubs that they have the game’s most outside the box, creative thinker as their manager? Every week is American Legion week this year!
Oh, shit. That’s right.
Nothing like on-the-job training when your season has been profoundly changed from a marathon to a sprint. But hey, it’s not like if the Cubs miss the playoffs this year that the core is going to be broken up because everybody’s a free agent after next season, or anything.
Is a 60-game baseball season a joke? Yeah, it is. It’s going to prove nothing. Ten weeks of baseball shouldn’t even get you to the All-Star Break, but this year it’ll get you to the playoffs. So, we’re not going to watch it, right?
Hell no, of course we are. We are absolutely going to watch it. It’s baseball. And it’s not just a bunch of fat Koreans (and Dan Straily, and for some reason, Addison Russell) playing before dawn. It’s the Cubs. And no matter how much the ownership tries to make us all hate them, we’re not going to take it out on their employees. Plus, we don’t have to spend ANY money on them this year.
Now, granted, a lot of us might not be able to watch it. In case you’ve forgotten, the Cubs games are on something called Marquee Sports Network and large swaths of the Cubs home TV territory can’t get that channel. It’s a problem. In fact, since there will be no, or few, fans allowed into games, it’s an even bigger problem than it would have been in a “normal” season.
Now, Cubs VP in Charge of Fucking Everything Up, Crane Kenney claims that before the quarantine the Cubs and Comcast were thisclose to a deal. I can’t stress to you just how much I think that claim is unsubstantiated horse shit. It reeks of something somebody only says when nobody can prove them wrong, and that’s why Crane said it.
It’s easy for me to make Marquee jokes. They’re really easy to make. I have DirecTV so I can watch it. I know that it irritates the Cubs. But, because I’m a swell guy, I want them to get a deal with Comcast because I know there are a lot of you who need that to happen so you can watch games. And, it’s going to be more fun to make fun of that channel when we can all watch it and mock it together. See, I’m all about bringing people together. At the same time, I’d like for the deal to somehow really screw the Cubs financially, just for old time’s sake.
One thing we’re (unfortunately) going to have to learn to deal with is that players are going to test positive for COVID-19 throughout this season. Hell, they’re not even at camp yet and the Phillies are lousy with it, some of the Blue Jays have it, and apparently, it’s been found growing in Charlie Blackmon’s beard, too.
Even if baseball didn’t come back, some of these guys would inevitably test positive. States are re-opening, many against any kind of actual logic, so with sports or not, people are going to keep getting it and passing it around like a dugout homer phone.
It doesn’t make it less concerning, or downright scary, it’s just going to make it even that much more public.
Now getting “used to” something doesn’t mean we should minimize it. You can tell yourself that young, healthy men are going to be able to recover from it, and by doing that you’d be just as delusional as meatheads like Mike Gundy or Dabo Swinney. Yes, young, healthy people have a much better chance of surviving the virus, but it’s far from a sure thing.
There are people out there trying to wish the virus away and pretend it’s not a big deal any more. If the return of sports does nothing else (and honestly it might only do this), it’ll make that next to impossible.
To minimize the number of people in the park only the home team’s TV announcers will be there. So, for example, when the Cubs are on the road, Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies will broadcast the game, but they’ll do remotely, presumably from the Marquee studio, which none of us have actually ever seen. But, here’s a weird thing. The road team’s radio teams will apparently travel. Why? They can’t watch the game on TV and do a simulcast from a studio, too? So we’re going to have 60 games of Zack Zaidman fake laughing non-stop in empty stadiums? Haven’t we all suffered enough?
A couple of things we need to get straight right now.
First, when players report on July 1 they are not coming to spring training. It’s not spring. It’s summer. It’s officially been summer for three days now, so knock it off. Call it whatever you want, summer camp, training camp, an epidemiologist’s nightmare, whatever, but it’s not spring training.
And second, there will be a lot of people talking about how this baseball season, and the resumption of the NBA and NHL seasons should have “something” attached to it.
The thing they want to attach is an asteriSk, it’s not an asteriCk. If you say asterick instead of asterisk you should be beaten with the wet rag that they’re going to allow pitchers to have on the mound so they don’t lick their fingers to throw wicked COVID balls.
And yes, I am going to be the first to give Tyler Chatwood the nickname, The Wet Rag.
So, the return of baseball means a return to the regular schedule that this newsletter was supposed to have. But since we still have a month before the games start up again, there will be time to work in a few more Further Review look backs.
And, the podcast will resume a regular schedule. So try as you might, you won’t be able to avoid me.
And, the Pod has an exciting new sponsor.
Wait. Let’s try that again.