My Bucs Dugout cohort Matt Clark wrote eloquently just a few days ago about the impact the coronavirus COVID-19 is having on the MLB and the Pirates and general, but I had just a few thoughts to add. As Matt noted, this is truly uncharted territory, and there’s no telling what’s going to happen from here.
MLB announced it would delay the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks and suspended spring training as well. And then Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that MLB had sent out a memo encouraging players who are not rehabbing from injuries to leave their spring training camps and go home, in an attempt to have players keep their distance from one another.
According to the Post-Gazette, players on 40-man rosters must be allowed to remain at spring training complexes and collect their spring training pay, but they are not permitted to work out as a group.
As for the two-week delay to the start of the regular season, that seems completely unrealistic. I couldn’t see the season starting before mid-May or even later. I hope I’m wrong.
The impacts of the health crisis could be devastating on and off the field for anyone associated with Major League Baseball. But while my thoughts are with all of them, and the most important thing is the health of any and all concerned, as a fan I wonder what sort of impact the stoppage will have on those who are not on the 40-man rosters.
In other words, the vast majority of minor league players.
Pat O’Conner, president and CEO of Minor League Baseball, said Friday that the minor league season would not start on April 9 as originally planned. He said the health and safety of everyone is the organization’s top priority, and he encouraged fans to contact their local teams concerning ticket issues and other general questions.
How long the minor leagues will remain on hiatus is anyone’s guess. But what impact will that have on the development of players such as Oneil Cruz, or Cal Mitchell, or Cody Bolton, or Quinn Priester or Sammy Siani? If the stoppage is brief, it will be just a blip on their development graph. But if the stoppage extends into the heart of summer, it could impact the timeline of when these players advance through the system and ultimately reach PNC Park.
And what about the June draft? Will it go on as planned? How do the scouts evaluate players who haven’t played for months?
I realize we have more important things to worry about. Health, as I said earlier, is the most important thing of all. Those of us who are near or at retirement age are seemingly more susceptible to the virus, and given that things are going to get worse before they get better, I’m genuinely concerned for those who are in that demographic.
And then there’s the financial picture. Again, those who are in the AARP crowd just saw their 401K plans take a dive similar to the second half of the Pirates’ 2019 season. It wasn’t pretty. And, unlike the last three months of last season, we have no idea how bad things are going to get, financially speaking.
Baseball has carried me through some tough times. Regardless of what was happening in the world or in my life, for the past 55 years or so, I could count on baseball to distract me from my real problems – at least most of the time. There have been work stoppages, though, and those dead times have been a challenge on someone like me, who looks forward to the everyday grind of baseball, particularly on the radio.
So, now we are left with a vacuum. Luckily, there are ways for baseball fans to fill that vacuum. Although I grew up in Pittsburgh and followed the Pirates, I was equally fond of the San Francisco Giants as a kid, and continued to follow the club throughout my adult years. As a Point Park College student, cutting my journalistic teeth at the resurrected Suburban Gazette in McKees Rocks – now known as the West Side News or Gazette 2.0 – I put out the weekly sports pages in the mid-1970s wearing the classic black Giants cap with the red “SF” logo. My old boss, a guy named Scott Davis, would tell people the “SF” did not stand for “San Francisco,” but for “Stupid F----_.” He might not have been wrong.
Anyway, a move to the West Coast at the age of 20 only heightened my appreciation for the Giants, despite many down years. But finally, nine years ago, my devotion was rewarded with the first of three World Series titles in a five-year stretch – a run of dominance that, for some reason, does not seem to get the respect it deserves. But that’s a story for another day.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, I was looking to kill time without spring training baseball to watch, when it occurred to me – why not go backward in time and relive one of the great moments in baseball history? At least for a Giants fan. So, my son – who was born and raised on Giants baseball but now lives in Pittsburgh – joined me in the basement to watch the clinching game of the 2010 World Series on YouTube.
Timmy Lincecum never looked better, hurling eight innings of one-run baseball before giving way to the bearded Brian Wilson in the ninth, who shoved as well as anyone ever shoved in a one-inning stint and brought home San Francisco’s first World Series title. Although my son and I took all the necessary precautions – remaining six feet apart and using sanitary wipes to get beers from the fridge and frosty mugs from the freezer – we shared a moment that will always be the source of great joy.
So, if you’re looking to fill time during this stoppage, I would recommend searching YouTube for your favorite Pirates game. Maybe it was the Johnny Cueto game of 2013. Or perhaps you would prefer going back further in time – 1979, perhaps, or 1971. Or the greatest game in franchise (and baseball) history – the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. A YouTube search turned up several options, including this one, which tunes in at the top of the seventh inning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MtnU4yno4o or this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TregDtArakM
It was a different time, for sure. But if you’ve never had the opportunity to see it, you’re missing out on the greatest game – and the greatest home run, off the bat of Billy Maz — of all time. It’s definitely worth the time commitment. And it will bring you 2 hours and 36 minutes closer to the start of the 2020 season.