This week in baseball? It’s kind of a big deal
There may not be more than a handful of days left for major-league owners and players to reach an agreement on economic, health and safety issues before it’ll be too late to have a season.
There are days when, in the stillness of the morning, ennui and lassitude having already set in like a misty fog, nothing seems like a better idea than getting our sports going again.
Baseball, especially. The calendar says bats should be cracking and gloves should be popping as peanut shells crunch underfoot in the aisles of ballparks everywhere. The absence of the game — the barrenness of those ballparks — is one of the countless little things in the spring of 2020 that can weigh on a person.
It’s only baseball. It’s only sports. Even if it isn’t necessary to acknowledge in every sports article that there are far more important things — life-and-death things — going on out there, there are days when not doing so feels a bit too neglectful.
This is one of those days, for whatever it’s worth.
Here comes the “but.”
But there may not be more than a handful of days left for major-league owners and players to reach an agreement on economic, health and safety issues before it’ll be too late to have a season. That makes this the most significant moment in baseball since the Nationals’ Daniel Hudson struck out the Astros’ Michael Brantley to end Game 7 of the World Series.
Will there be a season? Yes. Unless there isn’t. It’s conceivable that baseball could blow this thing and damage its relationship with fans like few times before, but one has to believe that’s even more unlikely than, say, the road team winning all seven games of a World Series. Of course, it was only last October when the Nats lost three at home and won four in Houston.
So, anything’s possible. As we move into a critical week in the sport, though, there are a few things to (hopefully) look forward to.
Perhaps as soon as the second week of June, there could be baseball sounds in Chicago. That’s especially true of the North Side, where the Cubs almost certainly would — with the necessary governmental go-aheads — make Wrigley Field the home base of their workouts.
Wrigley, though, with its main field and bullpens, can’t adequately accommodate all the players — 40 or more of them — who would be preparing for the season. Pitchers need mounds to throw from, and hitters need lots of reps against live arms. Social-distancing, to some extent, must be factored in, too. Obvious stuff. The Cubs likely will seek out a second location, perhaps a nearby college or minor-league park, for workouts.
What about the White Sox? They could hold their preseason workouts at Guaranteed Rate Field — with a second location, too — or they might choose to move operations back to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. How does 100 degrees sound?
With a target of the first week of July to start a shortened season in which teams might play approximately half the usual number of games, things need to get up and running quickly. Industry sources indicate that position players likely would require three weeks to get ready and that pitchers would need more time than that.
Primarily in order to minimize early stress on pitchers’ arms and bodies, teams could be allowed to carry 30 or more players on their big-league rosters. Don’t expect to see a lot of complete games this season, and, no, that’s not a comment on the local starting pitching. It’s possible roster sizes will be slightly reduced as the season progresses.
With the odds very long that there will be minor-league baseball this season, the Sox, Cubs and all other teams will have to be prepared to take unusual steps to keep certain players who aren’t on big-league rosters ready. Taxi squads will need home bases — the closer, the better, it would seem — not to mention enough bodies to keep putting in sufficient work. If the Cubs and Sox can shuffle players on and off the roster without involving unnecessary air travel, it would be a good thing.
One would expect, too, that before the Cubs and Sox will be ready for Opening Day, they’ll want to get in at least a couple of tune-up games like the dozens they play in the Cactus League under normal circumstances. Who better than each other for that purpose?
A little Crosstown action — Spring Training 2.0-style — might even be, in its own small way, kind of a big deal. Baseball is coming. Fingers crossed.