There’s No Crying in Baseball, Really?

I know a guy. Actually, I know a lot of guys, but this one works for major league baseball. So I hit him up recently for the inside baseball on what’s happening inside baseball.

As with everything else, the difference between pre-Corona and post-Corona baseball comes down to money. The owners want to save it; players, coaches, and trainers want to preserve it. For instance, pre-Corona baseball held forty drafts. Post Corona will have just five. International players will join the draft, but not to give all teams access to the talent pool. Rather, it’s a cost-cutting measure. 

The cost cutting may not stop there. Some owners want to eliminate minor league teams and take pruning shears to signing bonuses. Both moves could disrupt the farm system that has supported major league baseball for decades and is the envy of other sports. And my guy tells me that if universities cancel football, the money marked for baseball scholarships will disappear faster than a Jordan Hicks fastball.

Just as most universities are moving online, maybe indefinitely, so is baseball. This should be interesting, because baseball is as much performance as sport. The crowd is integral to the performance. What happens when there is no crowd, or when it is virtual? What will that do to the players? You can forget Glenn Close standing in her broad-brimmed, gossamer hat to inspire Robert Redford at the plate. He strikes out swinging, and Roy Hobbs goes down in flames.

Will fans “attend” games from their mobile, laptop, or home entertainment system? I imagine some lucky couple from Conshohocken, Pennsylvania being coaxed to smooch on “kisscam” to the delight of the entire viewing audience. If baseball execs are smart, that audience can be watching from anywhere around the globe, from Toronto to Tokyo and all points in between. Think of the do-re-mi to be made from advertising, which would make cost cutting a moot point. 

Some interesting research could come out of an online season. We might finally see data related to the effect the crowd has on performance and outcomes. And does home field advantage really exist, or is it just more baseball romanticism for those who have never filled out a box score?

On the other hand, although there may be gains to going online, there is much to lose. Despite being steeped in a calculus of angles, vectors, and forces as well as statistical analysis and probability, baseball affects all the senses. You smell the grass, you hear the crack of the bat, you see the diving catch in centerfield, you feel the stomping of thousands of fans in anticipation of a strikeout to end the inning. You crunch Cracker Jack.

Most of all you live with uncertainty. In baseball, you never know and can never be sure about anything, which is the reason Yogi Berra’s quip about it not being over till it’s over resonates with so many people. Not much may take place over eight and a half innings, but then in half an inning your world turns upside down because of a slider that forgot to slide.

Hopefully, online baseball won’t become like video poker. That a World Series of Poker exists isn’t reassuring. In video poker, you get the feeling that nobody is watching you. They aren’t, of course, unless you count the surveillance cameras in the ceiling. That’s if you’re in a casino. But without other players and a few spectators, the game shifts from engagement to observation. And there’s the rub.

It’s bad enough that, as fans, we have to content ourselves with watching from afar and hurling mild insults every once in a while, or that we are bombarded with blaring video games on the scoreboard. All of that amounts to controlled observation; controlled, that is, by advertisers. With online baseball, expect more control, not less. After all, the camera goes where it wants. I imagine a seventh-inning stretch led by the same party official who wakes Winston Smith from his bed.

Maybe it won’t be so bad if online baseball serves as a temporary fix to the health crisis. The problem is that the combined revenue from advertising, television rights, and “ticket” sales will be too attractive to go back to business as usual. And, make no mistake, it is business.

I’m not crying foul. I’m just crying.

Image credits: David Straight on Unsplash, Alvaro Espinosa from Pexels, kristinelonsford from Pixabay. This post is dedicated to “Magnum,” Mr. Baseball.

For more, go to Robert BrancatelliThe Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”

12 comments

  1. Yes, there certainly is crying in baseball right now, for all the reasons you mention. And then there’s the talk of simulated crowd sounds to make the game experience ‘more real’ for viewers.

    With all the pleasures I took for granted, it turns out that baseball is near the top of the list. Maybe I need to build a small diamond in my backyard…

      1. Ahhhm Swani Nile Ruva.
        Capone..Ahhh you listen. Here u mugz.
        Whiz gonna replace we lost..
        Davis?..Well in the name of Dollar bill and Buster Anderson.
        Free Pass..Free Land.
        Ivrrunn the Diadporical Domain…Yield Rite owe way..Oney way.
        I” I’ll have my fog with a slab of brown.
        Extra Extra ..After at least a half of Century..Reimanz pulls IUT.
        The 64..Well..Well be over soon.
        Wee Demon Moesach
        Soft Ground and Turf..No Divits and indubidably no Dog Sh..
        Out..this Sherman Land and Lotza perps backing up? Sandy..ok whut about her? Gotta Wear s hubble ova and ova and ova
        unrelated advertisers not welcome.apoliticos ? Hell no.zlipstick on his color..hell .Cathup stains on shirts.
        again..

  2. Yes, Robert, I hear a lot of crying about the loss of baseball this season. Baseball is a family activity in the desert evenings. Kids and parents are really missing these evenings of games, families, and the adult interactions and post game trips for pizza. Kids on the traveling teams are wondering about summer schedules and baseball camp. Tremendous losses on so many levels. Although I’ve never been to a professional baseball game, I have attended some of these desert evenings of baseball, and enjoyed the community interactions of families, kids, and adults:)

  3. It will be interesting to see how both pro and college sports cope this year, and perhaps make fundamental changes in the years ahead. I can live with almost any outcome, probably because I have no control over it anyway.

    But please, please, please……..no cardboard cutouts of “fans” in the stands, like they are doing in Korea. That would mark the end of civilization in America.

  4. Remember all those games in westerleigh park , stick ball, baseball and football. we did it without fans and loved every minute of it.
    Maybe the pros need a pay cut themsleves. With the pay for teachers, firefighters and police officers, we need to re look at our priorities.
    hope all is will . Rich

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