Baseball is a game of adjustments because you learn early and often
that what may have worked the last time won’t necessarily work the next time.
If you’re a pitcher and you strike out a batter with a curveball, you better believe that the batter will make an adjustment to be better prepared for it the next time. It’s a cat-and-mouse style back-and-forth relationship. One side makes an adjustment, the other makes their own adjustment to that adjustment, and so it goes, constantly adjusting and adjusting some more.
Adjust too little and it might not make a difference. Adjust too much and you might throw yourself completely out of whack. That happy medium is hard to come by; it’s why even the best batters do not succeed even 40% of the time.
The best-laid plans? Well, sometimes they require some serious adjustments.
Like when a global pandemic sweeps across a sport that plays a majority of its games in the country with the worst pandemic response in the world. Not to mention the travel logistics with nearly 300 internationally-born players.
With an absence of leadership from the federal government, U.S. pro sports leagues have had to figure out how to adjust mostly on their own, to varying degrees of success. Adjustments to the adjustments are already happening.
The Miami Marlins had baseball’s first outbreak within 72 hours of the start of the season, leading to nearly three-quarters of Miami’s Opening Day roster being unavailable. Five other teams had schedules affected by it.
Before Miami was able to control their outbreak, the St. Louis Cardinals had baseball’s second outbreak the very next week, leading to 24 total games being postponed due to COVID-19 within the first three weeks of play. This, in a season that intended to squeeze in 60 games apiece into a 66-day span.
Miami ended up idle from play for over a week, St. Louis over two weeks. With rain also affecting games, several teams find themselves trying to play out their respective 60-game schedules in far fewer than 66 days. For St. Louis, it means they have just 46 days to complete 55 more games. It could lead to a rash of injuries in a sport that has already seen an uptick of injuries.
Baseball’s adjustments to the adjustments have included new rules and protocols that have been whipped up on the fly, including doubleheader games shortened from a pair of 9-inning games to games of 7 innings apiece.
Adjusted coronavirus protocols include mandatory face coverings for all players not on the field during a given game, as well as all coaches and umpires. High fives are discouraged but have been difficult to phase out.
After reports of the previous outbreaks being linked to inconsistent hotel protocols for teams on the road, several hotel- and travel-related protocols have been added, with potential punitive measures for quarantine violations.
I appreciate that baseball has made some necessary adjustments. It was needed after the initial missteps, but it still remains to be seen if these recent adjustments will be enough to overcome the enormous variables the sport let themselves be exposed to when they decided to forgo a “bubble” format.
The National Women’s Soccer League successfully completed a four-week tournament called the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, in a clean site setting in Utah. The tournament’s 23 matches went off without a hitch, even though one of the league’s nine teams bowed out before arriving due to an outbreak.
Major League Soccer completed their own tournament last night in a clean site in Orlando, in a massive campus at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex where the National Basketball Association’s bubble is, too. After arriving on campus and clearing quarantine, MLS has been virus-free.
The aforementioned NBA is finishing up its regular season before embarking on their scheduled postseason, and like the MLS, has remained virus-free due to their quarantining and personnel-monitoring protocols inside the bubble.
The Women’s National Basketball Association is operating its clean site in Bradenton, Florida. They’ve been able to keep the virus from piercing their bubble so far as they try to complete a truncated season and full postseason.
Baseball and football? Well, they’re trying it with regular travel to and from teams’ respective stadiums all across the country. So far, baseball has had its struggles but the house of cards is still intact for now. Let’s hope for the best.
Football is the one that gives me the most pause. I can’t imagine that sport, with its close-quarters contact, will be able to navigate these waters without major incident. My alma mater of Buffalo has already had their collegiate football season canceled. I imagine many other college football conferences will have to follow suit. It will be tough for the NFL to find a safe way forward.
Nevertheless, it’s pro sports leagues that are leading the way in this country. Years later, people will look back and wonder where the government was. It still does not give me confidence about how school districts will fare this fall