Spring Training Hot Takes: Memorial Day Thoughts
Greg Jewett takes time to remember our fallen heroes and looks at the landscape of baseball, its possible impending return, as well as what MLB can learn from baseball leagues around the globe
At this time of unrest in our nation, perhaps Memorial Day can reset our interests. It’s not a day for politicians to postulate, rather a day to remember those who served to protect our way of life. Not focusing on the “new normal” or dealing with social distance. Personally, it allows for reflection. Although it’s a long family story, my Dad shared this picture reminding me what the holiday is all about:
My Grandpa Paquette won a Bronze Star for heroism serving in World War II attached to the 3rd Army 10th which invaded Italy. Noting his name differs from mine does not overshadow the impact he had on my Dad or myself through the years. At least the MLB marketing department understands today should be about remembering, not just camouflage uniforms:
Today, we remember the fallen members of our armed forces, and say thank you for their courage, conviction and sacrifice. pic.twitter.com/sZ66H8kxpz— MLB (@MLB) May 25, 2020
With an eye on the future, baseball remains a passion fueling my writing and spare time in fantasy baseball. Owners and players sit on the precipice of intense negotiations on Tuesday. It appears some traction can be gained in this article:
MLB willing to compromise on 50/50 revenue split.— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) May 24, 2020
Players would defer their prorated salaries to future years to reduce owner expenses in 2020.
Both showing a willingness to negotiate and get a deal done. They want baseball.
A big week lies ahead.https://t.co/A0yIkwqzM1
At the center of the return to games, the safety of players and coaches. In South Korea, the KBO enters its fourth week of contests with 87 games played without incidence. Still playing in empty stadiums, the KBO currently weighs the chances of allowing limited attendance going forward yet never made paying its players or staffs a priority:
Players in #KBO are paid in full in 2020 and there were ZERO employee salary cuts/front office downsizing. In fact, possibility of furloughs/pay reductions were not even a conversation. Yes, #KBO teams have much smaller commitments, but #MLB teams made a lot more $ over the yrs— Daniel Kim ??? ? (@DanielKimW) May 22, 2020
This differs from some teams in the majors though the Blue Jays and Brewers aligned their philosophy with the KBO. There are many others going in other directions including the Angels:
If baseball returns with live games, many factors need to be accounted for. Again, safety of all involved from the players, to the coaches, umpires, and team employees. Whether or not one feels Covid-19 represents a risk, this article from Nicaragua cannot be ignored:
Nicaragua’s Baseball Finally Suspended After Coach’s Death from Covid-19 https://t.co/c0tjZoTEhn— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) May 23, 2020
This circumstance needs to be prevented if the major leagues ramp up towards playing. Now factor in the spike in injuries in the KBO due to a condensed preseason leading up to games placing hitters and pitchers at risk. Hitters could incur soft tissue injuries, especially the hamstrings going from training to playing at full speed:
Injuries are piling up in #KBO and this is something #MLB players/trainers should closely monitor as MLB aims to start the season in July. Most injuries are hamstring/lower half related. Players waited a long time to start the season and that maybe 1 of the reasons? pic.twitter.com/awrsyKNKbY— Daniel Kim ??? ? (@DanielKimW) May 17, 2020
Plus, this follow-up tweet by Jeff Passan:
Copious hamstring injuries in the first month of the season are a very real thing, to the point that scientists did a study on it: https://t.co/wanOLEOeLd— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 17, 2020
Many teams tried to place pitchers on throwing programs while away from the team during the social distancing, but the risk of elbow injuries cannot be ignored. It’s discussed in this article in the Boston Globe by Peter Abraham:
Pinch-hitting for @peteabe on the Sunday Notes. This week: Yankees head physician Chris Ahmad worries about the "convergence of a Tommy John epidemic with a COVID pandemic." Do MLB pitchers face heightened risk with short ramp-up of spring training 2.0? https://t.co/8p30hM1xqW— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) May 23, 2020
Within the piece, this quote resonated:
“It’s almost like you’re showing up in the modified spring training full-go, you’re not 80 percent,” said former Red Sox trainer and current White Sox senior medical adviser Mike Reinold. “If that happens, to be honest with you, I actually don’t think you’re going to see a spike in injuries. But I do know that it’s very challenging for players to do that.”
Taking all of this into account, no matter what side one resides on when negotiations continue, there’s risk for all involved making it a delicate debate at the bargaining table. Perhaps the most overlooked but pertinent part of all of this for the players, the mental side. Anyone suffering from anxiety or with mental health concerns needs to be accounted for:
ICYMI, wrote about the importance of mental health in baseball's potential return.— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) May 24, 2020
"We have to keep creating this new normal. They are going to have to keep pivoting as guys test positive." #MentalHealthAwarenessMonthhttps://t.co/B9ZYUE8ogi
The Rays, in particular, seem ready for this obstacle. But anything could be a trigger in a truncated season unlike any other in recent memory for baseball. As alluded to in the article, riding buses, virtual meetings, no fans, using a rosin bag (will they be shared or carried out by an individual pitcher), will umpires wear gloves to throw baseballs to the mound to limit germs and so much more. Once again, a quote which stood out from this piece:
“The psychological term is priming, a way to prepare an athlete’s mind for changes and conflict, so they are less likely to be emotionally triggered and respond adversely.”
Selfishly, I hope baseball returns by July because of my love for the game. How it affects fantasy will be difficult to account for. How the divisions and interleague games evolve, if player quarantines occur for those with expectant babies in the summer along with how players respond to the ever changing environment they will be asked to participate in. It’s more than revenues and saving a season, it all needs to be factored in.
This week could be one with good news like the KBO thriving and a return of baseball to Japan pending in June:
BREAKING: NPB can play ball from June 19, but minus the fans https://t.co/6XvzH8sBBr— Japan Times: Sports (@jt_sports) May 25, 2020
For today, remembering those who served to protect our ability to make these decisions should be the focus. Be safe with families, plant some flowers and enjoy a socially distant cookout. Better days lie ahead and hopefully baseball will accompany both basketball along with hockey on the sports landscape to return to action. Be well and thanks Grandpa Paquette.