MLB’s Safety Protocols Need Trust. Good Luck…

There was an article in yesterday’s Washington Post sports section and here is the headline “on the jump” as the article continued:

  • “MLB’s safety plan comes down to trust”

Well, that conclusion was just a tad jarring.  If I were given the task to come up with a list of adjectives that reflect baseball and its existence today, I think I could go through at least a hundred adjectives before I came upon “trusting” as a candidate for my list.  In the world of MLB, no one trusts nobody about nothing.  Let me do a reset here…

Back in mid-March, MLB halted Spring Training due to COVID-19 and the league and the union came to a “sort-of agreement” rather quickly regarding how an obviously disrupted 2020 season might unfold.  The time horizon for when that season might safely begin kept getting pushed back – – so what did the two sides do with that extra time?  Maybe start working on next year’s CBA negotiations?  No, they found ways to fight and dig themselves into entrenched positions over money.

The level of rancor increased exponentially as time went by and what did that accomplish?  Nothing.  Rob Manfred did what he could have done any time along the way and announced what the season was going to be and when it would start.  So, no change in a positive direction or even in some neutral space  – – but plenty of negative nonsense.  Good work guys!

I am loath to say things cannot get worse than they are because those jamokes might take it as a challenge and we could wind up with photographic evidence of Rob Manfred and Tony Clark mooning one another.  We do not need that – – just to be clear.

To say there is a lack of trust on both sides of the table is the understatement of the year.  That lack of trust on both sides demands that every detail must be ironed out on every item before anyone can move on to the next step.  Although both sides agree that the games need to start when they are safe, nothing can happen until they all sign on the dotted line describing who makes what decisions and who else has to sign off on them.  There is no clear path to a “trusting relationship”.

The sports media is complicit here – – to a lesser extent than the two negotiating sides to be sure but complicit still.  Instead of focusing on what needed to be done, the media focused its stories on the money squabbles and assigning blame for a lack of an agreement.  The much bigger picture was – and remains – how does baseball get back into the national discussion in a positive way and how does MLB get more people into the stadia and more eyeballs on televised games.  Those are the most important issues for BOTH the players and the owners, AND it is the untold story by the folks who cover baseball.

Here is something for everyone to focus on:

  • If baseball becomes less relevant than say hockey and/or soccer in the US, the owners will suffer, the players will never get 8-figure salaries and may be out of work entirely, and there will be little if any reason for there to be a jillion baseball writers/broadcasters.  If the baseball bus goes careening off the road, it is going to take all those folks with it.  Yet, none of those folks seem to care about the existential matters.

What is the arc of baseball in recent history?  Well, we had a players’ strike that terminated a season and canceled a World Series.  Then steroids took over the game for at least 10 years and probably closer to 20 years.  [Aside:  We are not allowed to let go of that stigmatized time period because every year we get a recap of it when it is time to vote for the Hall of Fame and writers rehash the pros and cons of admitting or denying entry of various ne’er-do-wells to the Hall of Fame.]  And most recently we have the “sign-stealing epoch” where we know for sure that the Astros and Red Sox were guilty of foul play and most likely so too were half of the rest of the leagues.

Take a look at that arc of baseball and ask yourself this:

  • Is that history – marred with the bilious nature of how we got from mid-March to today – going to make you rush back to the ballparks?  MLB will certainly try to convince everyone that 2021 will be a season that represents a “return to normalcy”.  Are you buying that – – knowing that the current CBA expires in December 2020?

Return for a moment to that Washington Post headline that kicked this snowball over the cliff.  The MLB safety plan includes protocols for things like the team buffets in the clubhouse (individual drink bottles and not large multi-serve containers) and it mandates how players may lean on the padding on top of the dugout railing.  Seemingly, no stone is left unturned.  Except:

  • There are no detailed rules for players, coaches, and team staff to follow once they leave the stadium or the hotel or when they go home.
  • That is where the “trust” comes in…

There was a report in the St Louis Post-Dispatch in which an infectious diseases doctor tried to explain the challenges facing MLB in its return without even trying to consider a “bubble environment”.   The effectiveness of MLB’s safety and health plan will depend largely on baseball players making mature and rational decisions about their behaviors once they are away from the scrutiny of management.  That is not a loophole for the coronavirus to penetrate MLB; that is a giant rupture.

In addition to the sorts of challenges mentioned above, the Governors of NY, NJ and CT threw an interesting log on the fire this week.  Those states say they will require a 14-day quarantine on people entering those states from other states where COVID-19 is out of control.  Florida, Georgia and Texas are on that list as of today.  So, how can the Rays travel to NYC to play the Yankees and then the Mets under the MLB “regional standings proposal”?

Finally, here is a comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle from a few weeks ago:

“Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson? Boring. Give viewers the golf match they really want to see: Obama vs. Trump.”

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



6 thoughts on “MLB’s Safety Protocols Need Trust. Good Luck…”

  1. I kinda sorta signed off baseball for a few years and was just beginning to enjoy watching games again. Thanks to Curmudgeon for constantly making baseball seem relevant. Now, this has made my previous stance look like a good way to view the game.

  2. “MLB’s safety plan breaks down to rust”

    You get a team that may be in a semi-lockdown on the road to an open city? At least a few are going out to party….

    Cuomo is going to waive the travel ban on baseball, he specifically gave the health commissioner permission to give exemptions.

    I think the CBA covers next year. It expires after the 2021 season?

    1. Ed:

      The MLB plan calls for one to believe that a whole lot of young and less-than-fully-mature players will adhere strictly to the helath and safety protocols off the field at all times for 4 months.

      What will the NY health commish do if/when through testing and contract tracing they can pinpoint a basebvall player from an out of state team as the source of a series of infections in NYC?

      The current CBA expires on 1 December 2021.

    1. Tenacious P:

      5714 batters went to the plate trusting that they could hit it and those 5714 batters all went back to the dugout having failed to do so…

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