Baseball is back, at least until it isn’t

The back-and-forth rough and tumble of labor negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA is over, at least for the time being.

Now the only conflict is the cognitive dissonance raging in your head.

Newton’s Third Law is playing out in coverage of baseball’s return. For every headline that generates excitement, I’m seeing one that inspires an equal, opposite reaction.

For instance, there’s this…

… and then there’s this:

In my backyard, there’s this:

And then there’s this:

Gov. Bill Lee and Nashville Mayor John Cooper are marching forward with plans to reopen businesses and lift coronavirus restrictions, despite a worsening outbreak infecting, hospitalizing and killing more Tennesseans than ever before.

I’ve found equilibrium in taking pleasure from the idea that, if Major League Baseball can’t conduct a full season, nobody can point to business reasons. The two sides have agreed — or agreed enough — on the economics and the report date, which is an acceptable outcome for labor negotiations … between hostile parties … on the fly during unprecedented global circumstances.

Beyond the players’ willingness to report on July 1, I’m withholding joy about (and expectations for) the actual “regular” season until MLB can conduct a spring training without incident. Extrapolate the current situation to July 24, and I envision a dystopia where managers are resigned to building their lineup cards around their 10 least-contaminated meat sacks. The country hasn’t covered itself in glory when it comes to pandemic response, and this league involves most of the map.

But if we can allow hope to prevail for at least 24 12 hours, let’s run down the list of rule changes and other revised conditions for the compromised season:

The schedule: Teams will play 60 games, 10 games against each of their four divisional opponents, and five games against their interleague counterparts. The AL-NL “rivalries” will get six games, which will please Hawk Harrelson when it comes to White Sox-Cubs. There are no scheduled doubleheaders, and every game halted by rain will be considered suspended, rather than wiped out.

Universal DH: While the MLB and MLBPA couldn’t reach an agreement about universal DH in their economic proposals, the league can implement DH for both leagues as part of their health and safety protocols. This registers as a major bummer for anal-retentive National League fans (not me) and people who get really excited when the game breaks down (definitely me).

PERTINENT: As universal DH looms, let’s appreciate great moments in White Sox pitchers hitting

Rosters: Teams will start the season with a 30-man roster, which is part of a 60-man roster that also includes a taxi squad full of less contaminated meat sacks minor leaguers who can step up in case of injury or outbreak. The regular roster will then draw down to 28 players two weeks in, and then the now-standard 26-man roster at the four-week mark.

I’ll delve deeper into each of these modified measures as they pertain to the White Sox, at least as long as teams are able to conduct business in a manner that makes playing baseball in three weeks possible. The early reports on the health and safety protocol say it heavily relies on individual behavior modification, which makes the health of 30 30-man teams really difficult to maintain, so my hopes aren’t high.

PERTINENT: The third base coach is a vector

That said, we can at least celebrate the idea that teams and players are done trading proposals about a season that might even happen. Everybody has at least one win in the books the way I see it, and any additional ones are gravy.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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DuckSnorting-CanofCorn

Contaminated Meat Sacks. Sounds like a good name for a band.

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Shingos Cheeseburgers

The MLB plan seems to accept the idea of players getting infected and dealing with it when it happens as opposed to the MLS/NBA/NHL bubble plans that are trying to prevent infection. The bubble plan is more prone to catastrophe (eg: a whole team going – Hello Orlando Pride!) and the MLB plan is more prone to disruption but not outright shutdown.

I have no clue which plan is better or more effective. The MLB plan seems more humane since it allows players to live relatively normal lives…which of course presents far more opportunity for exposure. At this point I can’t wait for that first Friday night game where I can settle in with a PBR and complain about a bad third strike call on Yoan Moncada. That will be the most normal I will have felt in 4 months.

I’m glad MLB is (maybe) back. Let’s get weird!

joewho112

Has there been anything written about plans to separate the taxi squad from the main squad to avoid an outbreak in one infecting the other (or other social distancing measures even within squads)? Because if they’re not going to, having more players around would seem to be counterproductive (more players = more opportunity for infection).

Willardmarshall

Just imagining how players’ postgame behaviors might change….

Eagle Bones

Other than the fact that I don’t want to see anyone get sick (even if it doesn’t result in anything catastrophic), I have to say I’m very excited for baseball. Just scanning Twitter, it seems like a lot of people are turned off by how much this is not going to resemble a real season. While I certainly understand that and am not crazy about a lot of the changes myself, I would just be thrilled to sit down on the couch with a cold beer and watch a Sox game right now, no matter how weird it is with slightly different rules and no fans in the stands. Hopefully they can keep everyone safe and don’t end up having to shut things down.

Greg Nix

This is also basically how I feel. I don’t think the lack of “regular” baseball aesthetics will bother me much, so I’m excited at the prospect of watching games.

But I’m also pretty skeptical the season will he completed, so I’m not getting my hopes too high.

Eagle Bones

Ditto on the probability of completing the entire season. But honestly, even if I just got to watch baseball for 30+ days, I would find that enjoyable.

Eagle Bones

Sox with the biggest jump in playoff odds with the new season setup according to ZiPS.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-obscenely-late-obscenely-early-zips-projected-standings/

seven11

Interesting approach the Rockies are taking by testing players AFTER working out at their facility.