Before you start getting too upset, baseball is going to happen. My writing in this corner of the internet is not going to change the minds of anyone in power. The majority of them are probably intelligent people who have put way more thought into this subject than me. But I can’t help but feel that their priorities are skewed. Whenever it’s time to make a tough decision - such as whether to run Major League Baseball in the middle of a pandemic - I think it’s useful to at least start with a pros and cons list. So that’s exactly what I did.
Pro: Life is better with more baseball in it
Last weekend we in the United States celebrated Independence Day. Or, well, some of us did. I mostly sat in my house and wished people would stop shooting off fireworks. In any case, one thought that occupied an unexpected percentage of my brain that weekend, and may have invaded your mind, was that I was a little disappointed no one was out there wearing those awful Fourth of July uniforms they come up with every year. Then I read Matthew Lamar’s excellent piece earlier this week and I’ve felt a lot of the feelings he described there. I’m sure you have, too.
Any excitement over baseball being back needs to be tempered by the fact that blackout restrictions are still going to apply. Even though people will not be allowed to go to the stadium. So, even though baseball is happening, you might not get to watch any of it. At the beginning of the pandemic, corporations were bending over backward to offer these kinds of benefits to people. I guess they got tired of it?
Con: This season is going to be meaningless anyway
There’s been a lot of talk about whether the Royals might accidentally be competitive by getting super hot in a season that’s less than half the length of a normal year. And well, yeah, the smaller sample size is going to favor chaos. It might be fun, but will anyone care about it beyond next year? It doesn’t seem likely. People in Kansas City are still greedily consuming replays of the playoff games from 2014 and 2015 but will they still do the same for a team that squeaked into the Wild Card with a record of 32-28, won a coin flip of a game and got knocked out of the ALDS in four? Especially since guys like Buster Posey, David Price, and more are sitting it out?
There’s also a chance that there won’t even be any playoffs; all it takes is one hot spot breaking out at the wrong time in the wrong place to prevent one or more clubs from putting a competitive team on the field. With cases surging even faster now than they were earlier this year when we all agreed we needed to shut everything down, such hot spots seem inevitable. Baseball wouldn’t be able to continue under those conditions. Even if it could and did, the result would be even less meaningful than we’re already looking at. All this year can offer us is statistical oddities for future trivia questions.
Pro: Baseball players get paid
I know some of you don’t care if baseball players get paid or not. You might even be mad that they’re getting as much of their contracts (~1/3 what was originally agreed to) as they are. But so far as I’m concerned, this is an unequivocal win. This is their livelihood and not getting paid anything for an entire year would suck. Most of these guys don’t need the money as badly as some of you out there. But it’s not like giving up their paychecks would see you employed, either. So we might as well celebrate somebody getting paid.
Con: COVID-19 Resources will be lavished on a select few
The baseball players aren’t taking money away from you, but you know what having an MLB season does kinda-sorta take away from you? Potential COVID-19 resources that could be used to help the entire country recover from this pandemic and get everyone back to work safely. Some of you will be tempted to blame the players for this. Don’t. Even as much as has been and will be spent on MLB player testing they’re not even getting what they were promised when they were told to come back and play.
MLB ownership could have chosen to donate those resources to the public at large. I’m not going to blast them for it, though, because that really isn’t their responsibility. But they could have. When you look at it like that, it seems pretty wasteful to use them instead to play one-third of a meaningless baseball season.
Pro: Top prospects won’t lose all of their development time from 2020
It’s great to know that Bobby Witt Jr. and Brady Singer won’t miss an entire year of potential development time. The nature of life means that we will never know what might have been without the pandemic. But now we also won’t have to find out what might have been if those guys hadn’t gotten to play at all this year. They represent our hope for a brighter future and avoiding the worst outcome can only be considered as a positive.
Con: People are risking their lives for a sport
Some studies have suggested that even if someone has asymptomatic COVID-19 and doesn’t ever have to go to the hospital they could still suffer long-term lung damage and/or brain damage. Would you be cool with the idea that Bobby Witt Jr. might never play a game for the Royals because while participating in taxi squad activities for the Royals he catches COVID-19 and suffers permanent lung damage that prevents him from performing at peak level?
Brad Keller, Salvador Pérez, and Ryan O’Hearn have all already tested positive. They are young and not just in the prime health of their lives but likely among the healthiest people in the world.
One of them could die.
All of them could die.
Because of a sport.
Let that sink in for a minute.
And, of course, it’s not just the players who are affected. Bringing baseball back incurs more danger for coaches, clubhouse staff, umpires, and the families of all of those people as well.
Those of you who insist that baseball players don’t deserve the salaries they’re paid because they’re playing a children’s game: how will you feel if people die because of a children’s game?
Like I said at the top, I want baseball back, too. Things are rough, right now. Every pleasant distraction is welcome. The problem is that the pros and cons in my list may be equal in number but they are not even close in weight. The pros exist and the might weigh as much as a bag of feathers. On the other hand, the cons - or even just that last con...
What possible benefit could outweigh the potential life-altering and life-ending consequences of playing baseball? None. Given that, I just don’t see how Major League Baseball can justify starting the season. I will watch when the season starts. I’m stuck at home indefinitely and I’ve got to pass the time somehow. It’s not like they’d stop the season or anyone would be safer if I didn’t. Maybe we’ll get lucky and no one will get very sick, no one will die, and more data will prove that the fears of long-term damage from the virus were overblown by the small sample sizes and short time-frames scientists are currently working with. As baseball fans, heaven knows we’ve seen how easily one can be fooled by those things.
I just wish we weren’t gambling people’s lives on it.