The shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic haven’t impacted the number of questions about baseball’s attempts to play in 2020.
Spring training locations appear to be solved, with teams expected to work out in their home ballparks rather than the camp facilities. The Orioles won’t have all those fields and bullpen mounds at their disposal, so they’ll need to get creative while conducting their drills.
If they could train at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, they should be able to train anywhere. Including my backyard.
Just watch out for the animals living under the shed. A grounder that rolls through one of the holes could become a gopher ball.
(Full disclosure: We have a groundhog living under the shed, but he just became a gopher to make the joke work.)
No one knows whether the Orioles could use ballparks marked for their affiliates. Or what they’re going to do about the minor leaguers who aren’t expected to have a 2020 season.
Teams will be given a taxi squad. Do these players work out somewhere outside of Camden Yards? And I don’t mean the parking lot.
Would the Orioles be willing to start the clock on some of their top prospects, bringing, for instance, Ryan Mountcastle and Keegan Akin to the majors in a shortened season without minor league games available to them?
Mountcastle is going to find it harder to work on plate discipline and increase his walk total. Akin is going to find it harder to lower his own. Those games were necessary beyond slowing the clock.
The season will be cut in half. Teams are expected to play only within their division and against clubs in the same region in the other league. No cross-country travel.
Social distancing will be enforced, with players spread out in the dugout and perhaps in empty stands. Fans will be kept out for an indefinite period.
The distancing will take a hit if there are plays at the plate or on the bases, or when multiple players track a pop up or fly ball. It can’t be avoided unless the game is going to undergo more serious rule changes, in which case it should remain shut down.
I understand the importance of television revenue and getting back to some semblance of normalcy. Just don’t make a complete mockery of the sport.
No spitting, high-fiving, fist-bumping or chest bumps. Sunflower seeds are the devil. The adjusting of protective cups is probably still under discussion.
I mean, if you can’t touch your face ...
A report surfaced yesterday from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman that the postseason would conclude in late October or early November. The idea of playing games until late November has been nixed due to concerns over a second wave of the virus.
Can’t begin a baseball season and shut it down again. That scenario isn’t on the table.
As for the media, and I doubt that many people care, we’re still waiting for instructions. Whether we’re allowed inside ballparks and can conduct interviews beyond Zoom conference calls. Whether travel is going to be restricted.
No arrangement is perfect. None of them are official at this point.
If I can talk to a cashier at the grocery store, I should be able to replicate the late spring training arrangement with one-on-one or group interviews done outside the clubhouse and from the proper distance. Mask or no mask. But, again, we have no idea.
The auxiliary clubhouse used for manager interviews might be needed for the overflow of players. How else to separate the lockers?
On the bottom of the priority list is how we’d be fed. Press dining could be closed or adjusted to grab-and-go. Or we’d be instructed to bring our own food. Or we’d be instructed to begin fasting.
If the primary goal is to limit the number of people allowed inside the bubble, it makes sense to close the kitchen. It also should save teams money. And there are people in dire need of food during this pandemic. Sportswriters can figure out how to get fed.
PFPs and PBJs might be coming to a ballpark near you. Decisions must be made soon in order for teams to hold spring training 2.0 and be ready for opening day by the first week of July.
Today’s question: Which Orioles player are you most curious about in 2020, if there’s an actual season?
I’m choosing Austin Hays.
I want to know whether he can be the everyday center fielder, which certainly is my hunch. I want to know whether he’s going to bat leadoff and how many bags he can swipe.
I want to know whether he’s doing to pound his chest again after leaping above the fence to take away a home run.
Note: The Orioles are hosting a blood drive on Saturday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at Camden Yards. Fans will receive two free ticket vouchers redeemable for a future Orioles home game in 2020 or 2021.
Donors can enter the ballpark at the Home Plate Plaza entrance, located under the green awning between Gates D and E. Complimentary parking will be available in Lot A.
No walk-ups are allowed. Appointments in advance can be made at RedCrossBlood.org (sponsor code: Orioles) or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.
“The Orioles recognize that hospitals and healthcare facilities in our community rely exclusively on volunteer blood donors to ensure a ready blood supply for those in need, especially during times of crisis,” said Jennifer Grondahl, senior vice president of community development and communications. “In partnering with Red Cross, Budweiser and the University of Maryland Medical System, we aim to support local healthcare organizations with a sufficient blood supply as they continue to care for our community. We encourage all fans who are healthy and able to do so to make a donation.”