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Pinstripe Alley Round Table: Salvaging the Season

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How can baseball be played with coronavirus restrictions in place?

MLB Opening Day Postponed Due To Coronavirus Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

On Tuesday Toronto mayor John Tory banned public events in the city until June 30th. Though we learned later sporting events are exempt, the news sparked a round table discussion in the Pinstripe Alley Slack that explored the ramifications of baseball’s new coronavirus reality.

Check out the transcript below, and let us know your thoughts.

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Dan K.: Wow... I still think there will be baseball this season, but I think it is going to be in front of a lot of empty seats.

Dan B.: Rays might have home field advantage then.

Josh: Ehhh, I feel like Tory just gave de Blasio the cloud cover to do a similar proclamation.

And no baseball in NYC = no baseball anywhere, especially with the PA already signaling that they won’t play to empty stadiums.

Tyler: I think they just said today they are more amenable to empty stadiums.

Josh: Oh yeah?

Tyler: So if Toronto relocates to Buffalo for the season, I think there’s a chance for it to happen.

Josh: LOL the border is still closed, good point. Stay tf out lol.

John: Honestly, if they’re playing in front of empty stadiums, play in the minor league complexes.

Josh: How many people does it take to produce an MLB broadcast?

John: Less travel, smaller stadiums = smaller maintenance crew.

Josh: More or less than 50? I guess a club + entourage (coaches, trainers, clubbies) is more than 50.

John: I don’t know about television. I do know that, once you have everything set up, you can run a theatrical production where nothing moves with only two crew members.

Josh: OK let’s play The Constraints Game. The objective is to broadcast an MLB game with as few crew members as possible. But you’ll need more than the center field camera angle.

John: So if you set up the cameras before the game and don’t have them move (use a lot of wide shots) or use remote-controlled ones, you can cut the number of cameramen to minimal.

Josh: And the guys in the truck need to be six feet apart.

Ryan: I think the broadcast part is possible, if anything the dugout would be the most difficult, I imagine. Unless you have half the guys in the clubhouse on standby.

Dan K.: They can sit in the stands. The stadiums are big enough that broadcast personnel could be separated from players.

John: Keep the bullpen guys separate from the rest of the team, and keep guys not going to be in the game in the stands, and guys on standby in the clubhouse.

Josh: Yeah but the players can’t be separated from the players. Nor can the clubbies or the trainers.

Nor can the umpire lololol. Joe West calling balls and strikes from six feet away couldn’t be worse.

John: Home plate would be the biggest risk, for sure.

Tyler: Robot strike zone.

John: Good time as any to try it.

Josh: Robot at first base too?

John: I think you can get umps to make reasonably accurate calls from six feet away in an empty stadium. Less noise, so they can hear the thump of the foot on the bag.

Josh: Who was that Mariner that blew the baseball foul? First basemen should blow on baserunners to get them out of the basepaths.

Ryan: I think the first base ump is already usually far enough away.

John: They’re usually making the calls from far enough away.

Josh: Yes but the first baseman and batter are not.

John: It’ll be impossible to make certain that everybody on a field is healthy, but you could institute regular temperature scans of all players, and make everybody wash their hands upon entering and exiting the dugout.

Dan K.: Hopefully by late June /July there will really be a ton of testing available... NBA teams already went to private labs.

Evan: Might depend on sophistication/availability of tests as well. I think the fastest tests are now five minutes for a positive result. If they became abundant enough you could test regularly before games.

Dan K.: I could see players having to be tested weekly at a minimum.

Josh: And the political response? Again, Tory just gave the all-clear for every other mayor to do the same. Much less governors. Newsom would do this.

Tyler: Cuomo too, maybe. Maryland for sure.

Josh: DeWine.

Tyler: They have the most severe response.

John: Hence why I’d move the games to alternate sites if we’re not having fans.

Josh: So that’s Cali with what, six teams? NY with two, Ohio with two, Baltimore.

Tyler: So now you’re talking no NYY, NYM, BAL, WAS, CLE, CIN, LAD, LAA, SFG, OAK, SD.

Josh: But where? We’re running out of states.

John: We can simply leave the crazy areas, stick to minor league facilities close to each other. How’s Arizona?

Josh: “Simply” is doing a lot of work there I think.

Evan: Just gonna have to play them all in the Iowa cornfield.

John: It’s not easy to do, for sure. But in order to have games, it’s probably the simplest solution.

Josh: Lol Evan.

John: A big concern of mine isn’t even the games themselves, but the upkeep and maintenance of the stadium. How big is the maintenance crew for Yankee Stadium?

Probably more than 50 I’d imagine. And while a lack of fans would lower the amount of necessary maintenance, you can’t ignore it altogether.

Evan: Wear and tear on the field would probably be a challenge if teams are sharing as well.

Josh: Travel, lodging, food too. It’s just too logistically difficult - even if you play all the games in the same three cities guys have to live somewhere.

John: To some extent, it becomes for the league: at what point is the expense worth the money from the TV deal?

Evan: I wonder if the league could just build temporary neutral sites? just fields, no infrastructure even needed for fans.

John: If they build even ten times as fast as the baseball fields near my house, they’d be ready for the playoffs.

In 2021.

Josh: Aren’t there minimum field standards in the CBA? There are for lodging… building MLB-code fields before June, plus adding all the Statcast and camera stuff, no way.

John: The Statcast stuff, in a situation like this, probably doesn’t come.

Ryan: Hmm, the conversion that MLB had to do to the field for the London series with a stadium already structured was a lot of work and shipping, but that was also complicated by being on another continent.

Josh: I don’t think a team would sign off without that data.

John: The front office might want it, but at what point does the ownership want the money?

Josh: I think owners are more likely to campaign for just cancelling the season at that point. I think the TV money gets paid regardless. So you’re losing gate + your share of merch.

But you’re losing gate no matter what. Might as well cancel everything and reduce your costs

John: It does? I assumed that the reason for playing without fans was to get that TV money.

But I’m not an economist tbh

Evan: What if they built/upgraded facilities in an open, warm weather state and had an October-December mini season or tournament? Set up a little Olympic village for the players.

The NFL could pound sand.

Josh: Spring training 2021?

Evan: Haha I dunno.

Ryan: If there’s a season in any form this year I believe they push back next year’s spring training.

John: The problem with something that goes so late is players don’t want to jeopardize 2021 too.

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So what do you think? Can the season be salvaged, and if so, how?