MLB reminds me of that wonderful “Honeymooners” episode when Ralph wins a spot on the “$99,000 Answer.” Through sheer nervous panic, he chooses to return next week to answer questions about something he knows little about: popular music.
He and Norton get to work, spending the week in preparation, — Norton playing on the piano every song they can find but prefacing every tune with a few bars of Stephen Foster’s “Swanee River” until Ralph demands he cut it out.
Showtime arrives, and Ralph smugly declares to the quizmaster that, “I intend to go straight on, forge ahead, to the $99,000 answer!”
The first tune he’s asked to identify is for the least amount, $100. It was, of course, “Swanee River.” Ralph’s mumbles in search of an answer until the quizmaster tells him he must have an answer. Ralph meekly answers, “Ed Norton”?
To that similar end, we have MLB, in the sustaining midst of a pandemic, smugly declaring it plans to “forge ahead!” opening an abridged, spectator-less season with a made-for-TV-money Yankees at Nationals game on July 23 in, of course, prime time.
Well, way down upon the Swanee River and good luck. Apparently MLB feels that on July 23, all 30 teams and its traveling parties and clubhouse crews — hundreds of people — will be immune from the deadly virus. All the busses, taxis, airplanes, airports, hotels and chairs thoroughly inspected and disinfected.
Then there’s chosen personal behavior, such as Cleveland’s Franmil Reyes, who apologized for his recent no-mask attendance at a no-distancing party.
But who cares? Play ball!
Of course, when the fresh cases arise and those infected have their travels and contacts examined, there will be a freak-out factor that the logical could predict but MLB ignored in favor of fingers-crossed millions in TV money, plus the sale of “MLB 2.0” caps.
Given that spectators will be banned, what else could drive the four-month delayed start of the season other than TV money? It’s certainly not the desire to best ensure the health of players and those who surround them. Positive virus tests could replace the torn quad and Tommy John surgery as the medical issue du jour.
Then the same will occur in the renewed NBA and NHL seasons and within NFL training camps.
I certainly hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see this going well. These games — and all they encompass — will not be played within petri dishes and test tubes. They’re ballparks and what it takes to arrive in them, not biohazard control facilities.
MLB could’ve — should’ve — cautiously and judiciously put this season to bed. But, as usual, even if it leads to a ventilator, follow the money.
These replays make you miss uncluttered broadcasts
Those who have been watching old and not-so old MLB games on TV and YouTube seem invariably and pleasantly struck by the simple beauty of the former game, no artificial additives as provided by TV and players’ unnecessary peccadillos. In no particular order:
1. The absence of a computerized, one-size-fits-all strike-box graphic placed over live play. A clear, unfettered view of pitcher-to-batter had become a forgotten pleasure.
2. No stalling on the mound or from the batter’s box. The pitchers took the sign and threw. The batters mostly stayed in the box between pitches.
3. No look-what-we-can-do! graphics — such as launch angles, exit velocities and the always irrelevant catch probabilities. No one needed help to discern if a pop-up was hit harder than a line drive.
4. No stoppages for microscopic, freeze-frame reviews of close calls, a thoroughly unintended but steady drag on modern baseball. Close was self-evident, understood and indulged — no matter which way the call went.
5. TV announcers who allowed the game, and not their endless verbal presence, to be the priority.
6. The games featured multiple skills, thus the shift — in the few cases it appeared — could be defeated by not trying to pull the ball, and even, God forbid, a bunt.
7. Running to first was not an option. In fact, running to any base or after balls in the gap or against the wall were not an option. No one risked losing a double or triple by posing at the plate, and those who hit home runs were already too far past first to high-five the first-base coach.
8. Effective starters and relievers were not pulled as a matter of pre-planning. To try to script a game before it began was the work of the foolish.
9. The pace of games was such that games had little chance of becoming boring.
10. Old Yankee Stadium’s best seats were filled.
11. No conflating World Series stats with postseason stats.
12. Organ music that allows fans — especially dads and sons — to talk about the game rather than try to holler over blaring rap and heavy metal.
Why have all of the above virtually disappeared? Why has “the game changed” become an acceptable excuse? I don’t know but there can’t be any good reasons.
All not well with Maxwell
Sure made a significant story last week, former A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell’s lament that he has been persona non grata throughout MLB because he took a knee during the national anthem. How sad … if only it were true.
What missed the cut in that story was Maxwell’s ensuing arrest for pointing a gun at a female food delivery worker who’d been called to his home. He took a plea deal and was placed on probation.
Judging from the NFLPA’s silence, the union is good with DeSean Jackson’s outrageously stupid, hateful and inflammatory “enlighten my people” anti-Jewish posts. Where is NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith on this? Did he and Roger Goodell receive a group discount on a bunker?
The silence on this matter confirms that the growing double-standard has become so prevalent and glaringly indisputable it leaves open-minded, reasonable people disgusted. And in the name, of all things, equality.
Meanwhile — on behalf of ignorant, selectively blind lunatics — the NFL continues to take its decent-minded fan base for granted — and more than ever, that’s a mistake.
Paragons of virtue: Wouldn’t it be lovely if the Wilpons, greed-suckered into two Ponzi schemes, sold a piece of the Mets to Steve Cohen, a hedge-funder whose firm SAC Capital was fined a record $1.2 billion for insider trading, and to Alex Rodriguez, enriched (and suspended) by MLB and its teams as a steroid cheat.
Couldn’t wait to see Rob Manfred grin through that introductory announcement.