Welcome to MLB’s freak-show season! Now buckle up.

Against all odds and perhaps much common sense, the Major League Baseball season starts tonight. There have been odd MLB seasons before, but this one will take the cake.

After all, while there have been times where it wasn’t clear in spring training where a team would be playing, never in modern times has a team been homeless on opening day, as the Toronto Blue Jays (the “RefuJays”) are now. Plans to play in Pittsburgh went bust. The next plan, in Baltimore, is still in flux and would have to pass inspection from local and state authorities.

If it doesn’t, it is likely that that the Blue Jays are playing in a AAA stadium Buffalo. Sahlen Field in Buffalo is likely the most MLB-ready minor league stadium, certainly on the East Coast. It was built as an effort to lure an expansion team in the late 80s and early 90s. However, that team never came, so the facilities have never been upgraded to modern MLB standards. Modifications would have to be made.

If that doesn’t work… who knows? Perhaps they’ll go to Dunedin in COVID-infested Florida. Or maybe, in an unthinkable situation, they’ll have to be a travel team, playing all games on the road. While there have been teams like the Road Warriors and Samurai Bears in independent leagues, there hasn’t been a true travel team in MLB since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders became a road team later in the season simply because they sucked so much and drew flies (which, of course, makes it hard for a spider to eat).

Even putting aside the Jays, though, this is still going to be a strange season. After all, it turns out that we still might see enlarged playoffs. Yes, we are just hours from starting and we don’t even know how the playoffs will work yet.

And then, well, there’s everything else.

So, in closing, the 2020 MLB season is about to finally beginning. It’s going to be freaky. Buckle up.

 

There’s no way this freak-show works, but might as well enjoy it

Baseball is back, with lots of special rules for the age of pandemic. A whole manual of them, in fact.

Alas, there’s no way it is going to work, if it even starts at all. Based on recent trends with the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the Southern and Southwestern parts of the United States, it seems entirely likely that the already-delayed 2020 season will be delayed again or just outright cancelled.

Just look at the numbers and where things are headed. Trends in Houston are said to be pointing towards numbers that could be among the worst in the world. Twenty-six states, according to Johns Hopkins, have seen a rise in cases since last week, and 11 of those states have Major League Baseball teams. One open-source projection site that utilizes machine learning in making predictions estimates that by July 24 (which will be the opening day for most teams) over 1.9 million Americans could have active infections at that time. In places like Florida and Georgia, that site estimates that around 1% of the population could be actively infected by the coronavirus. While that doesn’t seem that big, keep in mind that even with the super stripped-down operations that MLB will have in place there will still presumably be more than 100 people in a ballpark at any given time, and so statistically with those rates of infection at least one of them could be expected to have the virus.

Oh, and it’s still not clear if the Blue Jays will even be allowed to play in Canada.

And, of course, even if they do play, it’s going to be, to put it mildly, a freak-show. There will be few if any fans. The (stupid) man-on-second-to-start-extras rule will be around. The NL will have a DH. Games will only be played in-division and in the cross-league equivalent. And, of course, there will be all the little things in place to keep human contact to a minimum, like not having players being allowed to bring other players their sunglasses or gloves at the end of an inning.

But, hey, it’ll be baseball. So if we do get it, enjoy it… because who the hell knows what’s going to happen once the CBA finishes up.

 

Opening Day will not take place (Or: Baseball in the Time of Coronavirus)

Opening Day will not take place in 2020.

Oh, sure, an opening day (uncapitalized) will take place. The Major League Baseball season will take place, and there will be a day where the first games take place.

No, I’m talking about Opening Day (capitalized), the holiday where the long winter is finally truly banished on a joyous late-March-or-early-April day full of ace-on-ace pitching matchups, red-white-and-blue bunting, and a sense of hope for everyone. Yes, even the Orioles… at least for a couple of innings.

That Opening Day will not take place. You know the reason, if you’ve paid any attention to the news. I won’t say it here right now for at this point it would be redundant. The reason why Opening Day won’t take place, especially in places like Japan or Korea.

Opening Day might not happen in San Jose, depending on how long the crisis lasts. The A-ball Giants don’t have their home opener until April 17, but given the scary projections from epidemiologists, we have no idea what the world may be like on that day.

It is entirely possible that in the coming days and weeks Seattle, New York City, or other great cities may have the same rules then as San Jose has imposed now. Perhaps those may come before opening day, definitively cancelling Opening Day in those cities.

Ultimately, though, Opening Day has already been cancelled. For even if the gates are open and the people can come, the feelings of the day have been lost this year. For instead of hope, optimism, and rebirth from the long winter, there will instead be worry and fear.

Questions will race: Can I shake the hand of the person in the seat next to me, who I haven’t seen since last season? Did the person selling the hot dog wash their hands correctly? Should that old-timer who has been coming to games for as long as anyone can remember even be here?

Yes, Opening Day is cancelled, and we can only fathom when the long winter will truly end.

Baseball and Softball will probably be at the 2020 Olympics

Guess what, folks? If a proposal passes next month, baseball and softball will be back in the Olympics, at least occasionally. The proposal, called Agenda 2020, is meant to try and solve some of the big problems facing the IOC, such as the fact that the increasing cost of hosting has made many global cities scared of hosting. For example, the 2022 Winter Games have had all but two candidates more-or-less drop out of the running because of local backlash. And the two candidates that are left are Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, who don’t have to care about public opinion and which are hardly the dropped-out winter wonderlands of Oslo or Stockholm that basically everybody outside of Kazakh and Chinese politicians would prefer.

The agenda includes, for example, allowing joint bids or at least allowing for certain events to be held elsewhere, perhaps even in other countries. But the big thing for baseball and softball in this is this part of the proposal, according to Reuters:

Sports will also not wait seven years from approval to their Olympic first appearance, and instead could be brought in for just one Olympics to maximize the Games’ reach and attraction.

 

In essence, it would allow sports to be added to the Olympics on a temporary basis if it would allow the Olympics to be more desirable in the host country. Now, presumably the sports added on temporary basis still would have to be pretty popular internationally (don’t go expecting to see NFL players marching in the opening ceremonies the next time the Olympics come to the USA, for example), but baseball and softball definitely fit the bill, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Committee has been heavily calling for them in 2020. So… expect baseball in the 2020 Olympics, and probably anytime in the future where the Olympics are in America, Japan, Korea, etc.