With baseball in a shutdown and the Kansas City area now under a stay-at-home order for nonessential business, most of us are kind holed up, reading Royals Review from home. So let’s talk, how are you doing? When do you think baseball will return? And how will you spend your time?
How are you holding up?
Max Rieper: I’m very privileged to have a job where I work from home, and the kids were on spring break, so our lives have not been disrupted much yet. We cancelled a trip to Colorado, but have spent the week doing things together, which has been great. We’ll see how this week goes now that “distance learning” is in effect with school. I do worry a bit for my wife who is a health professional and is still going to work at the hospital and of course for the thousands of people directly dealing with the virus nationwide.
Seth Jarman: All things considered, we’re doing fine here. It’s been challenging with a toddler, and I’m not proud of how many episodes of Octonauts and Puffin Rock she’s burned through in the past week, but that’s just how it goes. My wife and I are both able to work from home and our jobs are secure, at least in the short term. We’ve been taking walks around the neighborhood to combat cabin fever and have taken full advantage of the curbside takeout options that our local restaurants and breweries have been offering (we’re going to get so fat), but have otherwise been confined to the house. We’re all bored but healthy, just like we should be.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann: We’re holding up as well as anyone could in this scenario, I think. My husband and I don’t have kids, so there’s not much chaos to manage along with our own anxieties and fears. He is working from home. I am still going to the office every day, but nobody is allowed in the building except me and my boss, who has also been self-quarantining for some time. Getting to go somewhere every day has helped keep me grounded. We think we’ve managed really well so far, but the next few weeks are going to get worse all around us. But there are so many more dishes to wash when every meal is at home!
Hokius: I’m honestly surprised at how poorly I’m handling all this. Those that know me know that I am extremely introverted and that my first defense mechanism when stressed and overwhelmed is to retreat to my room and hide from people. I assumed that having that be required, and even saving myself 5-6 hours of commuting every week, would lead to more production in my hobbies on YouTube and Twitch but it’s really just led to me being as stressed out as ever. I say all this to remind everyone that these are stressful times even for those among us for whom it seems like this wouldn’t affect much. Make sure you’re checking in on your friends via social media/texting/e-mail/phone. Basically whatever method you and they prefer.
sterlingice: I‘ve been one of the more outspoken doomsayers for a while but I’ve progressed through enough stages that I’ve found a numb new normal. Progress, right? I have a job that mostly lends itself towards working at home as does my wife’s and we’re successfully going out very little. Unfortunately, it appears there are far more people who are not doing this and this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Josh Keiser: I’m holding up pretty well. It’s the first time that I am allowed to work from home and it’s everything I ever imagined it would be. I’m more efficient somehow which is not what I expected. Outside of that, I’m doing everything that everyone else is doing: ingesting as much info about the ever-changing situation and overreacting accordingly. It’s exhausting.
Matthew LaMar: I’m an introvert who is never bored—I have too many games to play, too many books to read, and too many ideas for things to write. Furthermore, I am blessed that my wife and I have secure jobs that aren’t affected by this mess. So, I’m doing as well as is possible, but my heart goes out to the many who aren’t.
What is your best prediction on when the baseball season begins? Will there be fans?
sterlingice; I really don’t know. There’s this faint hope that we discover some sort of treatment, in which case, the worst of the pandemic could wind down fairly quickly, maybe by Memorial Day or the All-Star game. If this happens, baseball will be in a unique position to bring us back from this national and global tragedy, much as the 2001 Mets game has been held up as a symbol of life returning to normal after 9/11. However, if that’s not the case, then we’re talking about 12-18 months off for a vaccine and all the risks that entails. At most, we might have rolling quarantines where we go two months on, one month off. Or maybe something less restrictive if we implement stringent trace, test, and treat like South Korea. But I have yet to see any indication that this country is heading in that direction.
Josh Keiser: I’m gonna guess that it’ll be the middle of June to start a couple weeks of Spring Training preparing for an official “Opening Day” somewhere around the start of what the 82nd game was regularly scheduled game. That puts us at the June 26 series opener vs. CLE. And you can bet your itchy ass that there will be fans there. MLB won’t start anything until they can fully start to recoup what they’ve lost and that’s before we talk about how dumb we are as a society. True story (not a true story), I saw a group of Gen Z’ers loitering at the local arcade just licking; licking here and there; just licking. Unreal.
Matthew LaMar: I would guess sometime in June, and we’ll get ~100 or so games. As for fans, I think that we’ll probably see some games without fans in certain cities. Some areas have been hit by the virus harder than others, and every metro area and state has their own responses. I would imagine Kauffman Stadium will have fans. Not so sure about Yankee Stadium or T-Mobile Park, though.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann: July 4, which sounded like a worst-case scenario when it was tossed around last week, but I am now feeling it’s an optimistic target.
Max Rieper: They are playing exhibition games in South Korea and Japan, albeit with no fans, so that gives me hope baseball can start getting geared up here in about two months. Of course, we haven’t taken as many steps to contain the virus as they have, so it could be a lot worse here. I’m still hopeful for a late-June, maybe July 4 Opening Day, kicked off by a rousing speech by President Bill Pullman to declare our Independence Day from coronavirus.
Seth Jarman: If future Seth came flying down my street in a nuclear-powered DeLorean right now and told me that there was no 2020 baseball season, I would not be surprised. I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that we had opening day on Memorial Day weekend. I honestly don’t have a feel for it right now, and it doesn’t seem like anyone else really does either. My gut says we’re looking at a couple of months at least, and I’m afraid the window for having a 162 game season is all but closed. If there is a baseball season, I do think the first games will be played in empty stadiums.
Hokius: At this point, I’m guessing July. I was originally thinking May, but things seem to be progressing more drastically than I had originally assumed. And after such a long layoff I assume baseball will want to give players a chance to get warmed back up in some kind couple week Summer Training thing before dropping them into the “regular season.”
Do you want to see baseball do anything creative with the schedule or post-season format this year?
sterlingice; I really don’t like the idea of expanding the playoffs in baseball. Yes, the playoffs are the big stage for baseball and the sport is basically relegated to a regional sport the rest of the year. And giving a faint hope for more teams helps give more regions a reason to hope. But I also really do love the “slog” of the baseball regular season, even during 100-loss seasons. And I think much more than any other sport, that regular season helps separate the good from the mediocre teams. There’s no advantage you can give the better teams in the postseason to offset the randomness of baseball so the more teams in the postseason, the much lower chance of the best team winning. So I’m not really in favor of changing the post-season format this year. I mean, heck, the Royals, which we all recognize will be a pretty bad team this year, could get hot for a couple of weeks and win a couple of series if allowed into the playoffs.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann: I think they might have to just roll with a short season. That will leave unbalanced schedules all over the place, but changing schedules for the whole league on the fly sounds more arduous considering what a massive job it is to set the 30 schedules in the first place. Nothing about the shorter season will be “fair,” but life’s not fair, and hopefully we can just be happy to have baseball back.
Josh Keiser: I was OK with the proposed playoff format everyone was outraged about so I’m good with moving forward with that right meow. As far as scheduling the regular season goes, I think it would be cool to do something like the best record of each month in each league getting a playoff spot. All interleague play is canceled and if the same team wins multiple months, they get a bye. At most you get 4 teams per league (assuming they play June-September) and at least you have an obvious winner for the league and they get to await the opposing league’s champion. I dunno. There’s gonna be an asterisk next to whoever wins anyways, might as well lean into the weird.
Matthew LaMar: The entire schedule has to be redone, so I think it’s certain that they’ll extend the season by a few weeks. As far as big changes, I think the most likely things we’ll see could be a compressed or modified playoff schedule with one fewer off day per series as well as the potential for the World Series at a neutral, indoor site.
Hokius: I think they’re going to have. Just playing out the second half of the schedule is going to leave things really unbalanced with some teams playing more games than others and leading to scenarios where you might play one division rival a dozen times and another just three. A lot of what it will look like will depend on just exactly when baseball resumes, though. And I think they may try to keep the playoffs as normal as possible. Or they may try to slip in an extra playoff team or two since it’s an oddball season and see if fans put up with it.
Seth Jarman: It kind of depends. If we end up with a shortened season — say 100 games or so — that’s close enough to business as usual that no change would be warranted. But if it’s August before baseball can be played again, and the season is a wash, I would be in favor of getting creative. At that point, it would be great just to have baseball in some form, and having the teams compete in a tournament similar to the World Baseball Classic would be a fun thing that I think players and fans would really get into. These are strange times. Who knows what might happen.
Max Rieper: I think the only major change is they’ll do a neutral site World Series. I think MLB, and more importantly, FOX, will like it a lot, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they decide to adopt that all the time, so they can add another round of playoffs and push the World Series into November.
What are you watching right now? What would you recommend?
sterlingice: I’m watching an energetic four year old. I recommend not having to watch one at home during a pandemic.
Matthew LaMar: My wife and I just wrapped up Parks & Recreation (I had never seen it before) and I’m probably going to get HBO for a bit to watch Westworld. I would highly recommend The Expanse on Amazon Prime. It’s got compelling characters in a compelling world and is accessible to everyone, sci-fi geek or no. You can read about it on this Friday’s pop culture corner, too! #plug
Max Rieper: We signed up for HBO to watch Westworld, so we did McMillions as well, and I’m going through Watchmen. My wife got me into a really interesting Netflix series called Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak that came out a few months ago that follows the people trying to prevent a worldwide outbreak. I would definitely recommend Better Call Saul, one of the best shows on TV, as well as the creepy, but fascinating show Devs on FX, which stars Nick Offerman as the head of an all-expansive Google-type tech company bent on proving that free will is a total illusion.
Hokius: I’m watching Avatar the Last Airbender right now and it’s been pretty awesome. Some of my other favorite anime to watch when I’m feeling stressed out include: Inuyasha, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (and it’s multiple spinoffs), Girls und Panzer, and Life, Chuunibyo and Other Nonsense. Those anime have always distracted and cheered me up. If anime isn’t your thing, that’s fine, I’m sure everyone else at this roundtable can offer the same streaming options I might have and more. I’ll just leave off by recommending you keep an eye out for early releases to streaming. Frozen II is on Disney+ early and Onward is following along, soon. Other movies have made similar jumps at least to a position of being rentable through your favorite service if not at no cost through your favorite streaming services.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann: I am re-watching The Critic, and finding it holds up. Mr. Minda and I are working our way through Love is Blind on Netflix. I got back into American Idol this season, and am finding it is a very different show from what it was a decade ago when last I watched. So much kinder. The audition episodes used to be wall-to-wall “let’s point and laugh at how bad this person is at singing!” but now there is an air of wanting everyone to be good, and being much more gentle to the people who can’t quite crack it. I like that. Overall, though, I’m trying not to center all my extra at-home time around screens. I’ve picked up previously-abandoned craft projects and done a couple of jigsaw puzzles, and read a few books. If the weather gets a tiny bit more cooperative, there is always yard work to do.
Josh Keiser: Honestly since I got my copy of OOTP ‘21 I haven’t really stared at any other recreational screen. I DID get a viewing of The Lion King remake. I’d say that if you have Disney+ already, go ahead and give it a watch. The animation is absolutely mind boggling and Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner as Timon and Pumbaa are really really funny and the hyenas (Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric Andre) were also great. I thought the rest of the voice casting left A LOT to be desired and that’s coming from a big Donald Glover guy.
I’d also recommend Dave on FXX. It’s a semi-biographic comedy starring Dave Bird aka Lil Dicky, a white Jewish rapper. His real-life schtick began using his rapping in a comic way, but his skills are far from a joke. I love his music already but this show is very, very funny. He delivers to my expectations and the cast of characters around him are also very good.
Seth Jarman: I’m mostly watching the aforementioned Octonauts and Puffin Rock right now, but when I do find time for grownup TV, I’ve been watching Baskets and the latest season of Narcos — both recommended. I also really enjoyed BoJack Horseman, Broad City and The Good Place, all of which recently(ish) ended their runs. And if you haven’t ever watched Twin Peaks, now is the perfect time to lean into that weirdness. It’s not for everyone, but it’s my favorite show of all time and I feel like everyone should give it a shot just in case it totally blows your mind too.