random hacks and pointless shenanigans

Last Week in Baseball (2020-07-27)

I said I was going to watch every Red Sox game this season. Fate may make that task easier than expected.

This is going to be a bit of an experiment. I said in an earlier post that I was going to watch every Sox game and write about it – I don’t plan on writing about every game, though. I’ve decided to do a weekly summary instead, and hoenstly, a lot of might end up being longer versions of thoughts I’ve already tweeted. Let’s get on with it:

I was glad to see so many players choosing to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Even if there’s an element of sanitised corporate posturing to it all, so far the MLB at large seems to be allowing for more personal expression and encouraging shows of support more than other leagues I could mention.

The fake fan situation is extremely fucking weird. Cardboard cutouts are one thing, and the Phillie Phanatic is certainly having fun with all the new comedy props littered around the stadium. Fox’s CGI crowd is too inconsistent to work – you see it in some shots but not others. Why bother?

Fake crowd noise is also bugging me, although as the games progress they do seem to be working on making it sound a little more naturalistic. I’m still not convinced, though. Baseball casters are having a hard time getting used to not having a crowd too. I’m watching the Mets play the Sox at Fenway right now, and every so often they’ll say something like “and the crowd goes…. quiet.” Casters calling the game from off-site is a little weird, but in general it doesn’t seem to be an issue. A couple of exceptions:

  • ESPN shouldn’t even have an MLB contract at all this point. I’ve gone on record as saying positive things about A-Rod as a colour commentator in the past, but the national-broadcast games with him so far have just been brutal slogs of everything I dislike about ESPN broadcasts. I don’t think calling the game from Bristol is hurting matters, but it probably isn’t helping either.
  • West Coast games seem to be more of a mixed bag for them, with casters in various locations instead of socially-distant in one studio. It’s like being on a Zoom meeting – there’s lag between speakers, there’s crosstalk, it’s just not good. Maybe it’ll get better as the season goes on.

One often feels like the Red Sox have only been successful during recent seasons in spite of not having a fleshed-out pitching staff. Three games in, and I’m already having the same dark thoughts.

Reading too far into the temporary rule changes for this year is a bit of a fool’s errand. I’m an AL fan primarily, and although I do enjoy how the NL hasn’t got the designated hitter, I do think the universal DH is inevitable at this point. I’ll be a little sad to see it change.

Allowing pitchers a wet rag to wet their fingers is a smart and sanitary move that would be completely unremarkable if it weren’t for this comment from a Dodgers broadcast:

They’re trying to avoid a lot of mouth-to-ball contact.

What is Rob Manfred smoking, and why isn’t he sharing? I was originally going to write this Sunday night, but I’m glad I waited until Monday evening instead. This morning, we learned that numerous members of the Marlins organisation tested positive for COVID-19. This has serious ramifications for last weekend’s opponents, the Phillies, but it also throws a serious wrench in the works for the games they were going to play with the Yankees at the start of this week. With a 30-player roster, nine players being out of commission on the COVID IL is a serious chunk of your starting lineup.

More importantly, it raises serious questions about how the commissioner’s office plans to let the rest of the season play out. Letting games continue at this point feels reckless, and in any sane world it would mark a complete loss of confidence in Manfred. Away missions to Atlanta aside, the NBA’s Reedy Creek Bubble District has (so far) been an effective way to play out the remainder of the season. I’m far more optimistic about the NHL’s “focus city” Canadian Bubble Plan than MLB’s approach. At this point, the only thing I’m less optimistic about is whatever ridiculous scheme the NFL will inevitably attempt. Having sports teams travel around the country proved itself to be a bad idea within 72 hours, and that’s before we consider having to temporarily relocate the Toronto Buffalo Blue Jays & Weck.

I was desperate for the baseball season to start back up, but it’s becoming apparent that they shouldn’t have started in the first place. Every damn sportswriter and think piece out there has already dropped this quote, but I’m going to quote Sean Doolitle too:

… We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people. We’re way worse off as a country than we were in March when we shut this thing down. Look at where other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven’t done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back. Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we’re trying to just bring it back, even though we’ve taken none of the steps to flatten the curve, whatever you want to say. We did flatten the curve a little bit, but we didn’t use that time to do anything productive. We just opened back up for Memorial Day. We decided we’re done with it.

Baseball is, to me, a more representative sport of America than any other. This is true for the highs, and it’s especially true for the lows.

If any bookies are taking prop bets on whether any games actually get played beyond 1 August, let me know. To close this post out, here’s the box score I posted on Discord a few innings into Thursday’s Dodgers game, where ESPN had some technical difficulties coming back from commercial breaks:

     R H E
SFG  0 2 0
LAD  0 0 1
ESPN 0 0 2

See you next week.