The 2020 MLB Season is Rolling on Like a Tarpaulin Over a Wet Field

To say that the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season has been full of challenges would be an understatement.

The season has consisted of one challenge after another with little sign of slowing down.

For starters Spring Training was shut down in March. Then, when the season resumed two months later, teams were faced with a grueling 60-games in 66 days schedule.

Due in no small part to a shortened Spring Training, several marquee players have had their season cut short due to injuries.

To make things even more interesting, a handful of teams are battling outbreaks of COVID-19 that are causing games to be postponed at an alarming rate.

Those teams that are lucky enough to play games are doing so in empty Ballparks in front of cardboard fan cutouts and the sounds of pumped in Ballpark noise.

This is even the type of season where no hitter bids are ended by routine fly balls getting lost in the air by normally competent outfielders.

To put things mildly, this is a season where anything can and will happen.

With all of those challenges, the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals likely were just happy to be at the Ballpark on Sunday.

The Orioles were ahead 5-2 when the tarp started rolling Sunday in a game against the Washington Nationals. Normally that would mean that the game would be called and the Orioles would be declared the winners. Nothing about the 2020 season falls under normal conditions. So, of course the game fell under a little used wrinkle in the rule book related to faulty equipment and was suspended instead of called official.
Photo R. Anderson

That all changed in the sixth inning when a rain shower in the Nation’s Capital provided some comic relief; while also showing just how crazy this season, and for that matter entire year, really is.

Raise your hands if you had, ground crew struggles to cover the field with a tarp on your 2020 Bingo card.

If you did have that on your Bingo card, congratulations since that is exactly what happened at Nationals Park.

In perfect conditions, the grounds crew can roll out a tarp and cover the field with the precision of a well-choreographed ballet.

In less than perfect conditions, like Sunday’s Orioles and Nationals game, a grounds crew can struggle for more than 15 minutes to get the tarp across the infield while allowing the field to turn into a muddy mess.

After a two-hour, eight-minute delay to try to get the field back in playing condition the umpires declared the field unplayable and suspended the rest of the game.

Under normal circumstances, the game would have been deemed official. According to the MLB rule book, any contest that is called after 15 outs have been made when the visiting team took the lead in the previous inning or earlier is deemed an “official game.”

If the rain delay comes before 15 outs are made, when the game is tied or in the same inning that the visiting team took the lead, it is suspended until a later date.

The Orioles were ahead 5-2 when the tarp started rolling. Normally that would mean that the game would be called and the Orioles would be declared the winners.

Nothing about the 2020 season falls under normal conditions. So, of course the game fell under a little used wrinkle in the rule book related to faulty equipment.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinklers on game day.
Photo R. Anderson

The tarp that the Nationals’ grounds crew attempted to use was tangled up in its roller like a string of Christmas lights. As such, it fell under Rule 7.02 of the MLB hand book which reads that any game that is called as a result of “light failure, malfunction of, or unintentional operator error in employing, a mechanical or field device or equipment under the control of the home Club” must be picked up at a later date.

The tarp and the roller are considered a field device and as such due to the inability to deploy said device properly the Nats live to play another day.

“We couldn’t get the tarp on the field. I feel bad for our grounds crew because, personally, these guys, to me, are the best or, if not, one the best. It’s just unfortunate that that happened,” said Nationals manager Davey Martinez during the postgame Zoom video call. “For me, honestly, it’s part of this 2020 season. It really is. There is going to be days when you don’t know what to expect. This is part of it. So, we just got to keep moving on.”

As part of that moving on, the game will resume Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as part of a scheduled series in Baltimore. Despite changing venues, the Nationals will remain the home team for the suspended game. When the game resumes, the Orioles will have two men on with one out in the top of the sixth and leading 5-2.

If I were the type to peddle in conspiracy theories, I might suspect that the Washington Nationals grounds crew tangled the tarp on purpose to allow the Nats the chance to climb back from their three-run deficit.

Where are Mulder and Scully when you need them?

Of course, since this is 2020, and there is a global COVID-19 pandemic where up is down and down is up, I will give the grounds crew a pass and say that the 15-minute tarp deployment really was just an unfortunate accident, and not a premeditated act, or a conspiracy, to help the home team avoid a loss.

However, if the Nationals end up winning the game Friday, they should definitely thank their grounds crew for the assist.

I learned many life lessons from the movie Bull Durham. One of the most important ones being, everyone needs a rain delay now and then. The way 2020 keeps rolling on I am sure a lot of us wish that someone would turn the sprinklers on and give us a break from this tumultuous year.

Of course, if that were possible, the way this year has gone, I am sure someone would find a loop hole that says we would have to make the year up due to equipment failure. Once through 2020 is plenty, so maybe it is best not to use the rain delay clause just yet.

If one wanted to apply deep thought to the tarp situation in Washington D.C. they could say that 2020 is a lot like that grounds crew trying to cover that field. This year is a muddy mess and a struggle. However, if we all work together as one, we can roll out that tarp and tackle the raging COVID-19 storm that is washing away 2020.

I guess the key is to Tarpe Diem, err Carpe Diem that is.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a spot on my 2020 Bingo card to fill in.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Dr. Fauci to Throw Out First Pitch for Nationals as MLB Social Experiment Begins

The 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is set to begin tomorrow as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise from coast to coast like a perverse purple mountain majesty.

If one is convinced to play baseball in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would throw out the first pitch in the home opener for the Washington Nationals tomorrow as they begin the defense of their World Series title, and MLB begins a social experiment on whether baseball can be played outside of a bubble.

While the role of throwing out the first pitch in the Ballpark closet to the White House historically falls to the President of the United States, it is fitting that the man polls show is trusted by more Americans to lead them out of the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic would be the one throwing out the first pitch of a season that promises to be like no other season that has come before it.

It should be noted that until the current administration ended the tradition, every president since William Howard Taft had thrown out a ceremonial first pitch. Taft started the tradition on April 14, 1910, at National Park in Washington, DC. during a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics with a pitch to Walter Johnson. The Nationals invited the current administration to continue the tradition in 2017 but they declined, and the team stopped asking.

While the over a century tradition of presidential first pitches came to an end, it is a great gesture by the Nationals to bestow the honor upon Dr. Fauci who, as a true fan of the team, has been wearing a Washington Nationals mask for weeks now.

While there are likely to be detractors who will try to discredit Dr. Fauci, or say he should have better things to do with his time than go to a Ballpark, I say let the man pitch, and I hope he throws a strike to someone dressed up like baby shark.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will throw out the first pitch in the home opener for the Washington Nationals tomorrow as MLB begins a social experiment on whether baseball can be played outside of a bubble as COVID-19 cases spike. Here’s hoping he throws the ball to Baby Shark.
Photo R. Anderson

I also say that we need to continue to listen to his science-based guidance to help us navigate these turbulent politically charged waters where even the act of wearing a facial covering, or mask, has become politicized. COVID-19 does not care if people have grown tired of it or choose to ignore it.

The same group that popularized red hats with white lettering as a way to self-identify as an ardent fan of the current administration could have done a world of good early on in this pandemic had they designed their own red mask with white lettering to “make masks great again.”

I have no doubt that had masks been embraced early on from the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., we would have had fewer deaths from COVID-19, and we would not be leading the world in cases while having to watch sporting events on television instead of the Ballpark.

The same group that popularized red hats with white lettering as a way to self-identify as an ardent fan of the current administration could have done a world of good early on in this pandemic had they designed their own red mask with white lettering to “make masks great again.”
Photo R. Anderson

Instead of thinking of a mask as something the hinders personal freedom, people should think of a mask as a ball cap for their face.

Just like wearing a ball cap protects your scalp from the sun, a mask protects both the wearer and those around them from catching a disease.

Speaking of the consequences of not wearing masks, and following public health guidance, thanks to the virus spiraling out of control like a kayak trapped in an eddy, there likely will not be any football this fall.

Sure, some leagues are not willing to say that yet, but all signs point to no fall sports which will result in billions of dollars in lost revenue from industry tied to professional and collegiate football.

One of the great joys I get each fall is waking up and watching Lee Corso and the ESPN College Game Day crew every Saturday morning. But, thanks to COVID-19 there will likely be no College Game Day this year. Or, if there is, it will look vastly different from years past.

I mean there is no way that students are going to be packing in like sardines waving their signs in the middle of a public health emergency that currently has the upper hand based on a lack of consistent coast to coast containment steps. It is also highly probable that many of those campuses will not even have students on them as schools are likely to continue remote learning as a way to keep students and staff safe.

It should be noted that it did not have to be this way. While, looking back and playing the if only game, is rarely productive, just think if only people had worn masks back in April how much more likely it would be that there would be football come September.

While the jury is still out on whether football will happen in the fall, starting tomorrow there will be 60 MLB regular season games in 66 days. The Toronto Blue Jays have still not announced where they will be playing their home games, but virus willing, a full World Series Champion will be crowned at the end of the shortest MLB season ever. Let the asterisking of the record books commence.

Aside from accepting a shortened season as being equivalent to a full-length season, MLB fans are being asked to swallow a lot this season. From empty ballparks with pumped in crowd noise and cardboard cutouts of fans, to a universal designated hitter, it is clear this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t like the seasons of old.

One other change to the season involves the unmistakable presence of a Nike swoosh logo on the player uniforms.

Despite minoring in Advertising and Public Relations in college, I cringe every time a new revenue stream is created that distracts from the game. Granted, a Nike swoosh in and of itself is not that different from what other sports leagues show. However, a swoosh is a slippery slope to the MLB embracing soccer style uniforms where team names are replaced by corporate sponsors. I truly hope MLB does not head that route.

I am all for sports leagues making money, but there need to be limits to just how far they are willing to go lest a baseball uniform turn into a NASCAR style driver fire suit.

Speaking of revenue streams, with fans unable to go to the Ballpark to buy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, it seems fitting that a new seventh inning stretch song be selected to properly capture the ambiance of what the 2020 MLB season is all about since there is little sense in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” when going to the Ballpark is not an option.

With that in mind let me suggest a classic song from the 1971 Academy Award nominated musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The song, which I believe totally captures the current response to COVID-19 in the United States, is titled, “Wondrous Boat Ride.”

It goes as such. Feel free to sing along.

The current COVID-19 climate and lack of a coordinated national response makes it feel like we are all on a “Wondrous Boat Ride” with Willy Wonka.
Photo R. Anderson

There’s no earthly way of knowing

Which direction we are going

There’s no knowing where we’re rowing

Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing

Is a hurricane a-blowing

Not a speck of light is showing

So the danger must be growing

Are the fires of Hell a-glowing

Is the grisly reaper mowing

Yes, the danger must be growing

For the rowers keep on rowing

And they’re certainly not showing

Any signs that they are slowing

Yes, COVID-19 is showing little sign of losing steam, yet the rowers who want to act like there is nothing to see here keep on rowing and trying to reopen at full speed.

A few weeks back, I mentioned the need for us to feed the right wolf if we are to get out of the current situation. Perhaps, instead of feeding the wrong wolf, people who are denying the existence of COVID-19 are listening to the wrong Oompa Loompa.

As for me, I am going to listen to Dr. Fauci and the other scientists who know a thing or two about pandemics and infectious diseases.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see a man about a Golden Ticket.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson