Two Easy Steps To Improve Social Distancing When Baseball Resumes
Many Mound Visits Include Half A Dozen People In A Space Meant For Just One
It is not like the idea has never been put into practice, or more appropriately in this case, a game. What was an oddity almost exactly five years ago, may very likely be the norm for the start of the 2020 baseball season.
Back in 2015, the Orioles hosted the White Sox at Camden Yard, a game noteworthy only because it was played without any fans present. Baltimore officials made the decision to bar fans because of the riots in that city, which had instituted a strict curfew for the safety of its citizens.
Most players mentioned the eerie quietness in the park that April 29 afternoon, where they had little trouble hearing the crack of the bat on the ball. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter joked that he had to be especially careful of any disagreements directed at the umpire, for they would be easily distinguished from the dugout.
The Orioles, and each of the other 29 teams in MLB, are very likely to be playing many more unattended games when this season resumes. Depending on the severity of the COVID virus, baseball will not start again until June.
One precaution already addressed is the strong probability of playing the games, just as Baltimore did a half decade ago, without any fans in the seats. Unlike that afternoon in 2015, however, baseball must make some changes on the field to adjust to the threat of the virus.
Probably the easiest of these alterations regards umpires, something that has already been used in the minor leagues. Computer-generated ball and strike calls, a more accurate approach than the tradition allowing for human error, should be implemented for every game.
Since the umpire is no longer responsible for deciding pitches, he can position himself far beyond the plate. It would rid the sport forever of that awkward physical relationship, where the umpire is practically standing on top of the catcher and within an arm's length of every batter.
Another step that could help reinforce social distancing is one the sport has already recently addressed. Pace of game concerns limited mound visits to six which, because of the proximity of what too often became half a dozen people in the confined area meant for one, should as of now be eliminated altogether.
Managers and catchers simply must find other ways to communicate with their pitchers, a small sacrifice that would also improve the pace. Any skipper wishing to make a pitching change would simply signal to the umpire from the dugout.
These alterations, which have already been partially implenented, will aid to the distancing required by the current virus. By making them permanent now, the sport will also shed itself of some of the outdated traditions that have been weighing it down.