Tag Archives: Tampa Bay Rays

Oakland A’s Clinch the West While the Tampa Bay Rays are One Win Away from Clinching the East

The shortened 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season is heading into the final innings.

This means teams are jockeying for postseason positioning in the expanded playoffs that promise to look like nothing that has been witnessed before; based on among other things neutral site fan free bubble games played in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 200,000 Americans.

From the beginning, I have held firm that I do not believe that a 2020 MLB season has any business occurring during a global COVID-19 pandemic. Nothing that could happen this season will change that opinion.

However, since a 2020 MLB season is being played, there are some things that have made me smile during the 2020 COVID-19 season.

During this year of pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, murder hornets, rare mosquito borne illnesses, coin shortages, and rudderless federal leadership, it is important to remember to smile now and then and enjoy the sweet, sweet irony when it rolls around.

Such was the case when I read that the Oakland A’s captured the American League West Division title and the Tampa Bay Rays are a win away from capturing the American East Division title.

While I am more excited about the prospect of the Rays winning a World Series, I have to admit the A’s taking the division title away from the Houston Astros sounded about as sweet as a Louisville Slugger playing a dugout trash can like an 808 drum in the club.

While I am more excited about the prospect of the Rays winning a World Series, I have to admit the A’s taking the division title away from the Houston Astros sounded about as sweet as a Louisville Slugger playing a dugout trash can like an 808 drum in the club.

Although the Astros will likely still make the playoffs, I take great solace that in a season where their cheating was revealed, they did not capture a division title.

For anyone who may have forgotten, right before the start of Spring Training 1.0, the MLB Commissioner’s office announced that the Astros had been caught cheating during the 2017 season. The cheating scheme came to light when former player, Mike Fiers, outlined the plan to a pair of journalists after leaving the Astros.

Watergate had Woodward, Bernstein and Deep Throat. Trashcangate had Rosenthal, Drelich, and Fiers.

The fact that the person who blew the trash can lid off of the cheating happens to play for the Oakland A’s makes the situation even sweeter.

Although three managers and a general manager were fired, many people, including myself, feel that the Houston Astros players got off too lightly for their roles in the cheating that occurred during the 2017 season. So, since no players were suspended or fined, the next best punishment would be for the Astros season to end as quickly as possible and without any postseason victories.

In another sweet dose of irony, Minute Maid Park was chosen as one of the four neutral site bubbles for the postseason and will host two of the four National League Division Series. The World Series will take place in the Texas Rangers brand new Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

Assuming the Astros make the playoffs, they will play in either San Diego or Los Angeles. Fingers crossed that they play in Los Angeles and some snarky clubhouse manager leaves them some welcoming messages in their lockers from the Dodgers.

Assuming the Astros make the playoffs, they will play in either San Diego or Los Angeles. Fingers crossed that they play in Los Angeles and some snarky clubhouse manager leaves them some welcoming messages from the Dodgers.
Photo R. Anderson

The Dodgers were most likely cheated out of a World Series title against the Astros in 2017. Based on the bad blood that has boiled during the match ups between the teams this year I am sure any messages left in the clubhouse would be illuminating.

Now, some people may think that I am being too harsh on the Astros. Perhaps 2019 me would have agreed with that statement. But, 2020 me has no patience for rewarding cheaters like the Astros.

That is not to say that the Oakland A’s are totally in the clear in terms of cheating in their history. One need only look at the Bash Brothers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire who were teammates on the Athletics for seven seasons; which included a World Series title in 1989.

Both McGwire and Canseco were tied to statistic enhancing steroid use that has kept them out of the Baseball Hall of Fame; along with many other players tied to the MLB steroid era.

As I have noted before, although a player enhanced with steroids is likely to hit more home runs, they still have to be able to recognize the pitch and know when to swing at the ball. A player who is tipped off on what pitch is coming, is a whole other level of cheating, especially when an entire lineup is taking part.

So, I contend that the team that brought the baseball world sabermetrics, Moneyball, and the Bash Brothers is not without their own past controversies. However, I will take the Oakland Athletics alleged indiscretions and crimes against baseball over the acts of the 2017 Houston Astros any day of the week.

Austin Meadows started the 2020 season in COVID-19 quarantine. He may end the season on the injured list. While Meadows may not be in the lineup, the Rays have the roster that could lead them deep into the postseason.
Photo R. Anderson

But enough about the American League West and the Astros. I grew up a fan of the American League East and that is where my true allegiance resides.

The Tampa Bay Rays have done what the Tampa Bay Rays do. Not only have the Rays survived one of the toughest divisions in baseball, they have thrived with the best record in the American League.

I would love to see the Rays return to the World Series for the first time since 2008 and finally be able to hang a World Series Championship banner along the catwalks of Tropicana Field.

Hopefully if the Rays do end up winning it all this year the world will open in time for me to travel to the Trop next season to watch the celebration as they kick off the defense of their title.

Back to back wins by the Washington Nationals and the Tampa Bay Rays would certainly make this Maryland born, and Florida raised writer extra happy.

Watching the Astros implode down the stretch would be another source of happiness. There may come a day when I cheer for the Astros again but that day will not be in 2020, nor do I think that day will be in 2021.

I would love to see the Rays return to the World Series for the first time since 2008 and finally be able to hang a World Series Championship banner along the catwalks of Tropicana Field.
Photo R. Anderson

The sad fact is the Astros would have been a good team even if they hadn’t cheated, but they got greedy and took shortcuts to be even better.

There are no shortcuts in life, baseball, or pandemic responses.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is likely in denial, or running for reelection from an echo chamber in a bunker beneath a large white house near the Potomac River.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Rays playoff baseball to prepare for.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Tanking Goes Mainstream as More Teams Ask Fans to Pay for Subpar Product now in Order to Reap Benefits Later

It has been said that it is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game that counts. For most people, this means playing as hard as possible, and knowing that win or lose, the best effort was given.

For other people, playing the game involves tanking in the present to improve the future. While there is no one way to tank, some tanking techniques include resting top-level players, building a roster of journeymen players, or encouraging players to leave a little in the tank and not go all out on every play.

By tanking, teams lower their season win/loss records, which leads to higher draft picks. Since most sports leagues give higher draft picks to teams with the worst records, the harder one tanks, the higher they draft. Tank multiple seasons in a row and a team can quickly build a roster of future All-Stars.

Of course, if multiple teams are trying to tank within the same season, than teams can find themselves not in a pennant race to be the best, but in a competition to be the worst. In 2019, four Major League Baseball teams finished with over 100 losses as part of their “rebuilding” process.

Tanking not a new to sports. What is new, is the openness some teams now have to telling their fans, and anyone else who is listening, that they are in “rebuilding mode.” The length of rebuilding varies by market and sport, but the usual length of a rebuild is about three to five years.

That is three to five seasons where fans are asked to accept a subpar product in order to potentially gain an advantage at the end of the rebuilding process. There is no guarantee that tanking will lead to success, but enough teams have succeeded at it that it remains a tool for some franchises to utilize in order to shortcut success.

The Houston Astros are considered one of the forefathers of tanking. The Astros used a tanking philosophy of accepting multiple 100 plus loss seasons from 2011-2013 as a means to secure draft picks. For their efforts of tanking to rebuild the farm system, the Astros won the World Series in 2017. That victory became tainted when the team was caught cheating through an investigation by the MLB Commissioner’s office. So, the actual benefits of tanking their way to a title could be equally owed to a well-placed trash can and video camera.

Proponents of tanking say that a few bad seasons are worth it if they can secure enough prospects to have five good seasons where they can make a World Series run.

The Houston Astros are considered one of the forefathers of tanking. The Astros used a tanking philosophy of accepting multiple 100 plus loss seasons from 2011-2013 as a means to secure draft picks. As one can imagine there were a lot of empty seats in Minute Maid Park during those losing seasons.
Photo R. Anderson

From an ethical perspective, no matter how you slice it tanking is wrong. People will try to justify tanking, but at the end of the day, there is no way one can say tanking is good for the sport.

Tanking cheats the fans of getting to see a competitive game, and it forces players to decide if they want to go along with the plan knowing that many of them will be replaced by the higher draft picks that their tanking efforts generate.

Teams who tank claim that it is the only way they can be competitive with the bigger market teams since they cannot outspend teams to build a roster of All-Star free agents each season.

It is certainly true that there will always be teams with higher payrolls and bigger stars. However, the Tampa Bay Rays, and others, have shown that by drafting smarter and working within their means, they can be competitive year after year without having to resort to “blowing up the roster” and starting over.

When fans buy a ticket to see a game, they are supporting the players on the field on that day. They are not spending money to watch people not play hard so that two to three years down the road a team can be a success.

There is a difference between resting a star player on a particular day, versus a season free of star players or teams trying hard not to win. Players deserve to take a day off here and there. Players should not take whole seasons off in terms of giving maximum effort.

In all sports, there is only one champion in any given year. Teams need to know that not everyone will get a championship ring, but everyone can act like a champion on the field through playing fair and hard.

The practice of tanking needs to be curtailed to preserve the sanctity of sport. Teams that are caught tanking should have their draft picks either taken away, or moved to later in the first round to avoid any benefits being derived from tanking. As long as tanking produces results in the form of high draft picks, teams will continue to engage in the unethical practice.

When steroids were discovered to be widespread in Major League Baseball, steps were taken to punish players found to be cheating. The same type of penalty needs to be handed out to organizations caught tanking.

For their efforts, the Astros rebuilding process gave them a core of young talent. In turn that talent devised a cheating scandal involving trash cans and video cameras proving that some teams really will stop at nothing to gain an advantage, whether that be tanking to rebuild, or tipping off pitches to win a World Series.

To me, there is no difference between willingly accepting years of rebuilding to build a better roster, and cheating with trash cans. Both approaches cheat fans out of seeing sports at its finest. For fans of the Houston Astros, they had the misfortune of enduring seasons of rebuilding only to have the legitimacy of the resulting World Series title called into question thanks to player greed.

I supported the Astros during those rebuilding years, and cheered for their roster of underdog ballplayers both in person and on television. I will take that roster of journeymen who were just happy to get to go to the Ballpark and play every day over the roster of cheaters that followed.

I don’t need my teams to win every year in order for me to feel a season is a success. If I did, I would have stopped cheering for the Baltimore Orioles a long time ago.
Photo R. Anderson

I don’t need my teams to win every year in order for me to feel a season is a success. If I did, I would have stopped cheering for the Baltimore Orioles a long time ago.

What I do need are players who try their best and know that it is the game they are playing now that matters and not some magical roster that will be built years down the road.

Sports will never be perfect. They are messy and complicated due to the presence of messy and complicated individuals. However, those messy and complicated individuals need to act ethically and look for advantages within the lines and not try to shortcut the system by working outside the lines.

I have noted many times that the Houston Astros caught a break this season by not having to play in front of fans booing them this season. Just because the fans aren’t there to boo in person does not mean that the Astros get off the hook. What they did was wrong and that shame should follow the players who took part in it for the rest of their lives.

What good is a rebuild if to find success one has to sell their soul? That is a question that more and more teams will have to answer until professional sports leagues put their foot down to punish tanking.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about rebuilding has me in the mood to build a sandwich that would make Dagwood jealous.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Verlander Shut Down with Forearm Strain as Injuries Pile up in Shortened MLB Season

The Houston Astros were dealt a major setback in their quest to return to the World Series for the third time in four years when it was announced Sunday that pitcher Justin Verlander has a forearm strain and will be shut down “for a couple of weeks,” according to manager Dusty Baker.

Verlander, the team’s ace, pitched for the Astros on Friday and experienced “tenderness,” which resulted in an MRI on Saturday according to Baker.

The news of Verlander getting shut down likely echoed through the Astros dugout like a well-placed swing with a Louisville Slugger to the side of a trash can.

In a normal season, a 14-day stint on the injured list (IL) is no big deal. However, in this 60-games in 66 days COIVD-19 inspired season, two weeks represents close to a third of the regular season. Plus, there is no guarantee that Verlander will be ready when the two weeks is up.

This is not Verlander’s first flirtation with injury this year. Verlander, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, was expected to begin the season on the IL back in March after having groin surgery and experiencing muscle soreness in the back of his shoulder.

With pitchers falling like Jenga towers, the MLB might want to look into using t-shirt cannons, or mascot sling shots as a means to prevent injuries to pitchers during the shortened 2020 MLB season.
Photo R. Anderson

The delayed start to the regular season created enough time for Verlander’s groin and shoulder to heal allowing the 37-year-old to take the mound for opening day.

Unfortunately for Verlander, and the Astros, a new injury popped up.

During Saturday’s Tampa Bay Rays versus Toronto Blue Jays broadcast, Rays broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson, mentioned that the shortened amount of time players had to get ready for the season would likely lead to many injuries as players tried to get up to speed in half the time of a traditional Spring Training.

Viewers did not need to wait long to see the prophecy from the broadcast booth come true. In the sixth inning, Toronto center fielder Randal Grichuk left the game after experiencing discomfort in his right sacroiliac joint while tracking down a ball at the outfield wall.

Three innings later, Blue Jays closer Ken Giles, a former teammate of Verlander, left with right elbow soreness after struggling with pitch velocity that allowed the Rays to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Due in part to Giles’ struggles, the Rays managed to tie the game from two runs down and ultimately won in walk off fashion in the 10th inning.

Toronto Blue Jays closer, Ken Giles, shown during 2016 when he was a member of the Houston Astros, became the latest pitcher to leave a game early as a result of an arm injury when he left the ninth inning of a game between the Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays. Giles’ former Astros teammate Justin Verlander is out for a minimum of two weeks following arm tenderness during his Opening Day start.
Photo R. Anderson

While I am ecstatic that the Rays won, I never want to see anyone get injured on the field.

No timetable has been announced for the return of Giles and Grichuk to the Blue Jays lineup. Much like the Astros with Verlander, the Blue Jays will just have to wait and see how long they are without their teammates.

Back when the rumblings of playing baseball in 2020 were percolating, I mentioned that it was asinine to rush players back to play a shortened season that would not only expose them to a deadly virus, but would also lead to the possibility of increased injuries, all in the name of saying that baseball was played in the middles of a COVID-19 pandemic.

I take no joy in saying that just a few games into the season it appears my prediction was correct.

Verlander, Giles and Grichuk are just three of the players already injured. Texas Rangers pitcher Corey Kluber, a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, left his start in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies after one inning due to tightness in his pitching shoulder. Also on Sunday, pitcher Reynaldo López, of the Chicago White Sox, left the game in the first inning mid-batter due to right shoulder tightness.

Stephen Strasburg, of the Washington Nationals, has yet to make a start in the 2020 season after being scratched due to arm soreness.
Photo R. Anderson

Aside from players leaving games early due to injuries, Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, both were scratched from their Opening Day starts due to injuries.

John Means and Hunter Harvey of the Baltimore Orioles are both on the IL for arm fatigue. The list goes on and on with more players likely to be added daily.

Additionally, players with the Nationals, Rays, Reds, and others have yet to take the field due to being in the COVID-19 quarantine protocol.

While I admit that I am enjoying watching baseball on TV, it is not like I am unable to find things to do with my time if a 2020 MLB season did not happen. Providing fans a few hours of entertainment still does not seem worth the risk to players health both from COVID-19, as well as freak injuries like the ones that are running through the MLB with the same reckless abandon that COVID-19 is spreading across America.

An athlete’s career is short, and skills usually diminish with age. So, I understand the competitive nature of players wanting to take the field as often as possible. In that way, a 2020 season of any length, even one that allows over half of the teams in the league to make the playoffs, makes sense.

However, when one considers that this season is taking place amidst a global public health crisis, the optics get a little murkier.

As far as the Astros go, even without Verlander on the mound, they are likely to be one of the 16-best teams this year and should make the playoffs. Assuming they do make the playoffs, and Verlander’s injury is healed by then, that should help them in the postseason.

Of course, there is no guarantee that they won’t have other players joining Verlander on the IL.

The 2020 MLB season will be one for the ages. Hopefully it is a one-time only thing, and normalcy returns to the diamond, as well as the world in general, by the time Spring Training 2021 rolls around.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to give myself another quarantine haircut.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Blue Jays Told to Find a New Nest as MLB Tries to Move Forward with Baseball in the Middle of a Pandemic

As Major League Baseball continues full steam ahead towards their goal of playing baseball in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, the Toronto Blue Jays are scrambling to decide where they will play their home games after being kicked out of their nest days before the season is set to begin.

The reason for the scramble comes courtesy of the Canadian government telling the Blue Jays that they cannot play games in Toronto. In making the decision to ban MLB games in Toronto, a statement released on Saturday by, Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, noted that “the cross-border travel required for MLB regular season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety.”

For anyone who has been watching the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States rise like a phoenix, the news that Canada has said the MLB players are not welcome inside their borders is not shocking. The border between the United States and Canada has been closed for to all but essential travel for months and playing baseball in the middle of a pandemic is not essential.

Let that sink in for a moment, the COVID-19 pandemic is so out of control in the United States that countries are closing their borders to Americans in order to protect their own citizens. If that does not light a fire under people to try to get a handle on the virus within the United States, I don’t know what will.

The Toronto Blue Jays are scrambling to decide where they will play their home games after being kicked out of their nest days before the season is set to begin.
Photo R. Anderson

While some people may try to just wish the virus away, the fact remains, COVID-19 is not going to just magically disappear if we stop talking about it.

At press time, over 140,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19. That is not a hoax, that is not fake news, those are the sobering facts that are getting more sobering by the day.

Of course, if people would wear masks and social distance, we could get a handle on this pandemic. However, it seems that no matter how many people die, some people will never take COVID-19 seriously. As I have said many times, and many ways, COVID-19 does not care who you voted for, and it does not care if you are tired of talking about it.

Unlike the United States, Canada has employed a nationwide strategy to battling the COVID-19 virus. Under Canada’s Quarantine Act, any person entering Canada from the United States is subject to a strict 14-day quarantine. Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited in the city of Toronto.

While cases in the United States seem to hit record levels every day, the situation in Canada is substantially different.

“Canada has been able to flatten the curve in large part because of the sacrifices Canadians have made,” Mendicino said. “We understand professional sports are important to the economy and to Canadians. At the same time, our government will continue to take decisions at the border on the basis of the advice of our health experts in order to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.”

That is not to say that Canada has said “sorry” to all professional sports wanting to play within their borders. The National Hockey League (NHL) is set to resume the pursuit of the Stanley Cup in August with eligible teams divided between hubs in Toronto and Edmonton.

Similar to the bubble approaches used by the NBA and MLS in Orlando, FL, the NHL plan seeks to keep the players and communities as safe as possible by limiting travel and keeping teams sequestered.

Months ago the Tampa Bay Rays offered to share the Trop with the Blue Jays all season long. The Rays even went so far as offering to build the Jays their own locker room. In the end, the Blue Jays gambled on getting to play in Toronto and lost.
Photo. R. Anderson

MLB is the only league bound and determined to ensure that every team gets to play in their home ballpark during the 60-game in 66 days season.

Early on when MLB was developing their plans to return, there was talk of teams being based at their Spring Training Ballparks which would have put 15 teams in Florida and 15 teams in Arizona. That plan was later changed in favor of the home Ballpark for all approach. With the change, came added potential risk for virus transmission.

Arizona and Florida are now major hot spots of the virus along with Texas. Instead of keeping teams sequestered in Arizona and Florida, teams are now free to move about the country and potentially spread COVID-19 from hot spot to hot spot. Five MLB teams are located in the hot spot areas of Arizona, Florida and Texas.

With this as the path MLB chose, I can totally see why the Canadian government made the decision they did. Why would they want to risk the headway that they have made in corralling COVID-19 just to see cases spike in and around Toronto because some baseball had to be played there?

In case one wonders how seriously Canada is taking their 14-day quarantine requirements, consider this, although the Blue Jays were granted an exemption that allowed them to train in Toronto for Spring Training 2.0, players were confined to the hotel attached to Rogers Centre in order to establish a quarantine environment. The players were not allowed to leave the stadium or hotel. Any violations of quarantine conditions would lead to fines of up to $750,000 Canadian ($551,000 U.S.) and up to six months in jail.

The United States can’t even get everyone to wear masks, since some people think it infringes on their freedoms. Worse still, governors are suing mayors who try to mandate that people wear masks. It has been a while since I took U.S. Government in college, but I don’t recall studying the Amendment about the right to be selfish and risk infecting others during a global pandemic.

While Americans continue to resist simple steps that could slow and ultimately stop the spread of COVID-19, it is refreshing to see a federal government in Canada providing a unified strategy to combating the COVID-19 pandemic and showing real concrete steps to flattening the curve. The United States could learn a lot from our neighbors to the north.

In fact, most countries not named the United States have a unified strategy for combating the COVID-19 virus. Instead of attacking science and scientists who are trying to stop the spread, most countries are listening to science and making informed decisions on a national level.

With Toronto ruled out as a place to play their home games thanks to Canada treating COVID-19 seriously, the Blue Jays are considering using either their Triple-A Ballpark in Buffalo, New York, or their Spring Training Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

So, with Toronto ruled out as a place to play their home games thanks to Canada treating COVID-19 seriously, the Blue Jays are considering using either their Triple-A Ballpark in Buffalo, New York, or their Spring Training Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida. At the time of this writing, a decision on where they will play had not been made.

Toronto’s first regular season game is slated for July 24 against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Blue Jays’ home opener is scheduled for July 29 against the Washington Nationals. So, time is definitely running out for the Blue Jays to nail down the logistics for where home games will be played.

While I am not going to go so far as boycotting the 2020 MLB season, I remain steadfast in my belief that a 2020 season should not be played in the middle of a global pandemic. I also remain hopeful that between now and opening day the MLB will decide to pull the plug on the season. Of course, I doubt that will happen.

The Blue Jays’ home opener is scheduled for July 29 against the Washington Nationals. So, time is definitely running out for the Blue Jays to nail down the logistics for where home games will be played.
Photo R. Anderson

With all signs pointing towards a season taking place, the Toronto Blue Jays should have been more proactive and removed Canadian home games from the table months ago.

There are enough issues with spreading COVID-19 from state to state. There is no need to make an international incident out of it.

I enjoy traveling to Canada and look forward to when I can go there again. In order to do that, Americans need to show the resolve that was shown during World War II and unite against the common enemy of COVID-19. If we don’t, we will remain an isolated island with the rest of the world closing their borders to us and shaking their heads wondering how the richest nation in the world could screw up a response to a global pandemic.

We should have been out front leading the way to curtail the virus instead of blaming others and saying, “oh look at the shiny object over there” while Rome burned around us.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash my reusable masks.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

As We Peer Deeper Through the Looking Glass, MLB is Proposing Pumping Fake Crowd Noise into Empty Ballparks

Just when I think 2020 can’t get any crazier, someone ups the ante and takes us further through the proverbial looking glass.

Or, as the Cheshire Cat would say, “When the day becomes the night and the sky becomes the sea, When the clock strikes heavy and there’s no time for tea. And in our darkest hour, before my final rhyme, she will come back home to Wonderland and turn back the hands of time.”

The latest attempt at fake normalcy and turning back the hands of time in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, comes courtesy of a report by the Associated Press that Major League Baseball (MLB) wants to pump fake crowd noise into empty ballparks during their shortened season to give the players and viewers an authentic game experience.

I get that athletes are used to crowd noise, and viewers are used to hearing noise when they watch a game, but using fake noise in empty Ballparks is something that even the Mad Hatter would call crazy.

The crowd noise will come courtesy of the video game MLB The Show. According to MLB, sound engineers will have around 75 different effects and reactions to choose from as they try to set the mood like a Ballpark Barry White.

MLB wants to pump fake crowd noise from a video game into empty ballparks during their shortened 2020 season to give the players and viewers an authentic game experience.
Photo R. Anderson

To use a television analogy for the completely made for TV event that the 2020 MLB season has become, instead of filming games in front of a live studio audience, MLB is going to use the equivalent of a laugh track.

Come to think of it, a laugh track is exactly what the 2020 MLB season needs since it is completely laughable that the season is taking place to begin with.

But, if the MLB season must take place in the middle of a pandemic, silent grandstands would be a much better approach to show that this is not just any other season.

Just picture getting to hear the sound of the pitch hitting the back of the catcher’s glove along with the communication between players on the field. That would be so much better than hoping the Ballpark sound engineer selects the correct sound out of the 75 they can choose from.

By choosing the route of fake noise, MLB is missing the chance to allow viewers to hear the action in a way they have never heard before, and hopefully never will again. Ballparks so silent you can hear a trash can bang would truly be something magical.

Sadly, MLB is not the only sports league using video game soundtracks to set the scene. England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga returned to the pitch with crowd sounds from EA Sports’ FIFA video game franchise.

The NBA is also considering pumping in the Jock Jams crowd noise when it resumes play in the Walt Disney World ESPN Wide World of Sports Bubble.

Pumping in canned noise gives the appearance of, “move along, nothing to see here” instead of allowing the silence of the event to show that we are in uncharted territory. I mean, are they going to fill the stands with stuffed animals, or cardboard cutouts, as well, like the KBO League in South Korea is doing to avoid the look of empty seats on television?

It is almost like the sports leagues pumping in the fake noise are afraid that if the games included silence people would realize that there are more important things to focus on right now.

One cannot just pump in crowd noise, and fill the seats with life sized Hello Kitty dolls, and pretend that we are not in the middle of one of the biggest crises in over a century. I am not saying that we all need to run around in misery with ash on our bodies like the biblical story of Job, but this rush to reopen everything, and just wish a virus away is not working.

One cannot just pump in crowd noise, and fill the seats with life sized Hello Kitty dolls, and pretend that we are not in the middle of one of the biggest crises in over a century.
Photo R. Anderson

Also, from a journalistic ethics perspective, using fake noise on the broadcasts is right up there with the disturbing trend of broadcasters super imposing advertising on Ballpark elements to get more revenue.

Real life does not happen in front of a green screen. A sports broadcast should give the viewer the exact look that a person in the venue would see and hear. Fake sounds and ads blur the lines, and could lead to a point where reality is distorted in the name of making a buck.

While I know that a sports broadcast falls under “entertainment” and does not always adhere to the same high ethical standards that a news broadcast would, ethics still need to be maintained so that the audience can have confidence that what they are seeing is reality and not a revenue stream centered alternative reality.

To take the through the looking glass analogy further, we are becoming a nation that is not only deeply divided on political issues, but the very response to COVID-19 is divided between those who are taking the virus seriously, and those who have gone through the looking glass and are playing chess with the Queen of Hearts while saying, “Off with their heads, and try the beans they’re delicious.”

COVID-19 does not give a hill of beans about people ignoring it, and trying to hope it away. The only thing that is going to defeat this virus is to starve it of fuel in the form of people it can infect. That involves closing things down, and to use the video game analogy, hitting the reset button.

COVID-19 is spreading like a nationwide wildfire. Some people are putting water on it and controlling it by wearing masks and socially distancing to starve it of fuel.

As MLB plows full speed ahead with trying to have a 2020 season like someone trying to win a perverse bet, Austin Meadows of the Tampa Bay Rays became the latest player to test positive for COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

Other people are saying, “look at the pretty flames,” or worse saying “fake flames” as they play their fiddle and call the virus a hoax.

The entire MLB season falls into the look at the pretty flames category. There is zero reason that an MLB season needs to be played this year aside from owner’s greed, and a misguided desire to make everything seem normal as the world burns.

It would be great for MLB to show that the season is not a giant cash grab by donating all revenue to essential workers who are the real heroes in the middle of this pandemic.

I highly doubt that MLB would do that, but if they did, that would be something I would support in terms of pushing forward with the season. I will not support pumping in fake crowd noise, however.

As 2020 continues to roll forward, one can take some solace in the fact that the year is closer to the end than it is to the beginning. However, based on the lack of coordinated action to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, there is little solace that 2021 will be any better than 2020 if we stay on our current course.

I say that not as a fatalist with my head stuck in the sand, or as someone detached from the reality while standing behind a podium between two trucks.

Instead, I say it as an optimist who sees a path to turning things around and still believes that Americans will realize we are in this together and that masks and social distancing save lives. And, that is not just pumping in fake noise, that is the reality.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to ask Alice if she can make any sense of this at all.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson