The Summer Games Have Been Postponed

The IOC finally recognized the reality of the 2020 Summer Games and postponed them.  Actually, it is probably more accurate to say that the action of the Canadians jolted the IOC out of its blissful state of denial and into the present.  The Canadians announced that they would not be sending any athletes to Tokyo in July of this year.  Immediately after that, the Australians and the Poles informed the IOC of the same thing.  US institutions tied to the Olympics did not go quite that far, but they did urge the IOC to postpone the Games.  So, sanity prevailed in the end.

I feel sorry for the athletes who have devoted so much time and energy to training for these Summer Games.  But the games will likely take place in 2021; so, many of those athletes will get to compete in the Olympics on a different time scale.  The Olympics have never been “postponed” although the Olympics were cancelled during WWI and WWII.  The difference between a “postponement” and a “cancellation” is simply the time interval between games.

From the data I can find on the Internet, Japan does not have nearly as many coronavirus cases as many other countries.  At first glance, one might think that Tokyo would be a “safe space” for the athletes until you realize that many of those athletes and many of the spectators who would come to see the events would be coming from places where coronavirus is much more prevalent.  Tokyo would no longer be a “safe space”; it could well become a hotspot of its own.

I have used the absence of March Madness and MLB Opening Day from the calendar this year to think about possible ways to make sports better.  I have suggested changing the MLB playoffs to a double elimination tournament to mimic the College World Series; I have suggested that the NBA regular season should start on Christmas Day and should only be 58 games in length.  Well, the more time I spend in self-imposed isolation here in Curmudgeon Central the more ideas I get for changes that might improve sports in the US.  Today MLB is in the spotlight:

  • The beginning of the baseball season should see as many games as possible played in a “warm weather city” or in a domed stadium.  Baseball is not a game that is best played when the temperature is in the 30s and if the season continues to kick off around April 1 – give or take a few days – there is certainly going to be cold weather at night in the northern cities that host MLB teams.
  • [Aside:  Of course, another approach to this would be to start the season later and play double-headers every weekend to narrow the time of year when games will take place.  By the same logic, having the World Series games take place in venues where there is a potential for snow makes no great sense either.]
  • During the MLB playoffs – no matter what the format may be – there will always be weekend games.  There should be a rule in place mandating that at least one playoff game scheduled for a Saturday should be played in the afternoon.  If MLB seeks to attract “the next generation of fans” to the game, it would make sense to put at least a few of their signature games on TV at a time when kids can watch the whole game.
  • Tanking in MLB is a serious problem; not every team is seriously competing in 2020 – – assuming that there is a 2020 season.  Tanking is a palatable strategy from an owner’s perspective for financial reasons.  Yes, attendance will drop; but team payroll drops too.  One estimate for the Orioles’ team salary on Opening Day – had there been one – was $44M.  To address the tanking problem, maybe MLB should institute a rule mandating a salary floor for every team.  Suppose every team had to have a roster on Opening Day slated to make a minimum of $100M – or maybe even $120M.  With that on the expense side of the ledger, owners might not accede to a strategic plan that involves tanking for several years.  Indeed, if teams had to spend that kind of money, it might be more difficult for them to be confident that they will wind up with a top pick in an upcoming draft.
  • [Aside:  The MLBPA would have to be consulted on a rule change but I doubt they would put up much of a fight over this one.]

I have read reports that MLB is contemplating rule changes involving the use of electronic means to steal signs.  I have no objection to the baseball overlords working on that “problem”, but I would prefer that they spend some time looking at other aspects of the game besides the hot topic on top of the inbox.  A former colleague often said:

“When we spend all of our time working on what is urgent, we never have time to work on the things that are important.”

Enough with rule changes and schedule changes, I have a stat question for the baseball seamheads.  Some folks have proposed that extra inning games should place a baserunner on second base to start an inning.  This proposal aims to prevent games from going 15 or 17 innings with a middle infielder being the final pitcher for one of the teams.  Let me assume that such a rule is adopted and now imagine that the following situation obtains:

  • A pitcher has thrown a perfect game for 9 innings, but the score is still tied 0-0.  In the 10th inning, this pitcher appears on the mound with a runner on second base through no fault of his own.  Question:  Is he still pitching a perfect game?

Finally, I think that I can draw the following conclusion without fear of contradiction:

  • When a child is born in the US in mid or late December 2020, its biological parents were not adhering to “social distancing” guidelines promulgated in March 2020.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



6 thoughts on “The Summer Games Have Been Postponed”

  1. Why mess up something that works so well. I love extra inning games because it retains the competitive tension that I love about sports.

    1. Doug:

      I agree completely; I would not adopt the “runner on second” rule. But it is bandied about by others…

  2. In the (ridiculous, hopefully never to come to pass) extra inning baserunner scenario, I’d have to say the pitcher who had thrown a perfect nine up to that point is still perfect. He did not face the runner on second, who was never a batter in the first place. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying here?

  3. Your question is irrelevant. The analytic geeks would have been counting pitches thrown and would not have allowed the pitcher onto the mound in the tenth inning. But, just in case, if, by some freak of nature, a pitcher is born or someone like Bob Gibson or Robin Roberts is reincarnated and would pitch into the 10th inning, let’s incorporate that rule to start in the 11th… unless Christy Mathewson suddenly arises from his grave.

    1. Gary:

      Ever the voice of reality… If a pitcher is throwing a perfect game, I suspect that the analytic geeks would defer to his desire to continue to pitch. Pitch count analytics can get out of hand.

      You probably recall that in his first game as Phillies’ manager, Gabe Kapler pulled Aaron Nola early because he had thrown 65 pitches or so. The Phils were ahead at the time but found a way to lose that game. Kapler never lived that down with Philly fans.

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