Thoughts on MLB’s Summer Opening Day
Any observations about professional sports during this second surge of COVID should be prefaced by the fact that the health and safety of all involved is paramount. Some would say even bothering with professional sports is a mistake. I’m torn. As an MLB and NBA aficionado who understands the basics of science and public health, it does seem wise to keep everything on pause. On the other hand, we all need something to pull us through at the moment. While many athletes are understandably nervous about participating right now, many are desperate to get back on the field/court. I’ve gone through a healthy withdrawal from obsessive fandom, but now I’m ready to appreciate having the Red Sox in my ears as I walk the dogs and the Celtics playoff run to look forward to.
Since MLB’s Opening Summer Day appears to be happening and sixty games have been scheduled for each team, here are some thoughts.
1. Because the typical MLB regular season is 162 games, and fans think of their team’s performance based on wins over 162 games, each team should start with a 51–51 record, in order to have the standings make any sense at the end of September.
2. Due to the Canadian government nixing the Toronto Blue Jays bid to play at the Rogers Center and quarantine all summer in a hotel nearby, the Toronto Blue Jays will likely be headed for Buffalo. Welcome to the Buffalo Blue Jays in 2020.
3. Tampa and Miami should play their games in AAA parks in the Northeast since southern Florida is virus-central and their division opponents play in the Northeast anyway. This would cut down on travel and exposure.
4. I still can’t fully imagine the season progressing as planned, but if October baseball happens, perhaps unsuspecting teams like the Reds or the White Sox will find themselves in the #MLBSurvivorWorldSeries
5. The Black Lives Matter movement is not going away and its great to see the Cleveland baseball club showing solidarity. In their exhibition game at Pittsburgh on Saturday, they stood united with an arm over each other’s shoulder. Francisco Lindor is a great leader and manager Terry Francona is the right manager for a club looking to spread unity.
6. Daniel Bard is returning to the majors for the first time since 2013. Bard was a triple-digit-fastball-throwing reliever in Boston from 2009–2013. Bard’s 2010 season was especially nasty. Unfortunately, he fell victim to the yips abyss. Controlling a 99 mph fastball can become a mental puzzle. Since 2013, Bard has attempted comebacks with the Rangers, Cardinals and Mets. Now 35, he recently worked as a player mentor with the Arizona Diamondbacks, before other pitchers he worked with suggested he give it one more go. The Colorado Rockies offered him a minor-league deal and an invitation to camp in February. After making the 30-man roster, Bard is slated to pitch out of the bullpen again, this time at Coors Field.
7. Recent reports indicate that crowd noise from MLB the Show (taken from real crowd noise over the last several seasons) will be piped into MLB stadiums during games. ESPN reports:
Taking a cue from two European soccer leagues, Major League Baseball will play crowd noise from its official video game through ballpark sound systems during games. Stadium sound engineers will have access to around 75 different effects and reactions, according to MLB, which has provided teams with crowd sounds captured from MLB The Show.
Personally, I would love for the inappropriate button to be used. Of the 75 different effects of crowd noise, the artificial soundtrack will be probably take a few weeks to sound close to natural. The sound programmers have their work cut-out. It’d be nice if they stuck to the typical noise-and-reaction levels appropriate for each park. For example, Tampa and Baltimore don’t need a sound engineer at all.
It also makes me wonder how the players feel about this. Sure, they’ve been playing baseball with ambient crowd noise of varying intensity over their careers. I’m sure the younger players are more impacted than the veterans. As a viewer who often mutes obnoxious announces and doesn’t get any rise out of the arena/stadium sound enhancement that’s been happening over the last 20 years, I’m suspicious. Baseball is such a slow-paced game. There’s a languid, almost zen-quality to the sounds of baseball that is underappreciated. Bat on ball. Ball against leather. We’ll see…and hear.