Saturday, April 18, 2020

Getting Back to Normal

Joel Sherman has another good piece in the New York Post today on the uncertainties involved in baseball returning this season. I tend to use Sherman's writings as a starting point quite often, and it's for two good reasons. The first is that the Post is one of the few newspapers not behind a paywall yet. The second is that Sherman is a gifted writer who tends to avoid the easy cliché or the cheap hot take most of the time. That was true 15 years ago when I started the first blog and it's still true today.

I criticize him when I think it's due, but it's only fair to point out the fact that it's nice that there are still a few guys out there who can write about the sport in a manner that's thoughtful and intelligent. The way sports are talked about on radio or TV has tended to cheapen a lot of writing on sports.  Kudos to Sherman for avoiding that trap.  I know Sherman doesn't have a clue I exist and can care less about my opinion of him, but credit where credit is due.

And finally, before we get back to the meat of this post, congrats to Sherman for reaching an impressive milestone.  At least according to the Bing search I did on my computer to pull up the linked article, Joel had a remarkable birthday this past January.  As someone who "celebrated" my 61st birthday last October, I can only hope that I am still around and writing well in 2078.

Anyway, back to business.  I was fairly pessimistic that any sort of baseball season would take place for a while, but I think there is enough impetus behind a return that it seems more likely than not that we'll see baseball this year.  I think the 5 questions Sherman asks in his piece are a quite valid starting point to when a reopening might be feasible.

The first question about whether the country is past the peak of the crisis is an obvious one. The idea of a return to sports while any part of the country is still at or near "peak" pandemic has a sort of "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" aspect.  It will make the spectacle of men playing sports look quite unseemly if it was going on while we as a country are still trying to find creative ways to store all of the bodies.

The problem with this one is that the disease is affecting different parts of the country in such an asymmetric manner.  For those of us who live in the area around New York we're seeing the worst of it now.  We're weeks away from a time when it might be said we are no longer in crisis, and we're among the earliest to be at this point.

Other parts of the country are just starting to deal with this virus and their peak is down the road.  Add on top of that that governors in some states are doing little to inhibit the spread of Coronavirus, and when are we actually going to be at a point where no part of the country is in crisis?  It's impossible to say with any certainty at this point.  But I think Sherman is right, that would be a valid starting point to even consider a MLB return.

Testing is going to be a huge concern, too.  Right now we're still ridiculously under testing in this country.  Even when we get to a point where there are finally enough tests to go around, you're going to need to have enough kits to constantly test players, coaches, umpires, trainers and all of the ancillary support personnel.  More than that, these tests are going to have to deliver fast results.  It's not going to be helpful if it takes a few days to find out someone in this closed system tested positive. By that point so many others would have been exposed.

So already we're waiting for the peak of the pandemic to pass all over the country, and finally solved a testing problem that's plagued us for months already.  The way I see it we're looking at June, maybe?

I think the other really important question Sherman asks is whether an outbreak can be stopped if the system fails and the virus finds its way in past the safeguards.  It wouldn't just be a health disaster, but it would also be a public relations nightmare, too.

I can only imagine how depressing it would be if all of this work was done to get some version of Major League Baseball going only to see it come crashing to a stop. In a sense this is a peek into the challenges of reopening as much as we can of this country in the months ahead of us.  We can't sit around twiddling our thumbs at home while we wait for a vaccine to be widely available, but failure to do this reopening wisely would ultimately leave us in a worse place, and with diminished hope.

I want to see baseball come back this year, but for sure I'd rather have them wait until they are in position to maximize their chance for success than to rush into something that ultimately fails. It's going to be fascinating to watch the logistics of a reopening fall into place when a decision is made and the process is started. I'm sure this will give those of us who love and miss the game some fantastic topics for discussion when it begins to come together.

I'll be back tomorrow.  Stay well.

I'm not sure if anyone who read the old blog will find their way here after all these many years, but if you do please drop me an email or comment if you'd prefer. I'd honestly love to hear from you. Also, I will be posting here regularly if you're inclined to come back.

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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