Major League Baseball is staring down the pandemic once again in preparation for its latest season, but this time, they have a clear idea of how to deal with once-in-a-lifetime circumstances.
Okay, so it’s twice in a lifetime, with the pandemic still around, as I mentioned. The severity of the pandemic in the United States is truly terrible, but the economy must thrive whenever feasible, and Major League Baseball, which is a huge business, learned how to navigate the issue a season ago.
Now, the league is planning on a full 162-game schedule, set to start on April 1 (no foolin’). Last year’s campaign wasn’t perfect, but the league had its World Series and crowned a 2020 champion. MLB of course plans to do the same this season.
In the Bay Area, it’s a two-for-one deal, with the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics. We’re blessed by the sports gods to have two big-league clubs to follow, each with a chance at World Series glory. There’s almost nothing better than when each club is competitive, and one of my favorite things ever is to drop by the local pub as each team is in the second half of their game so I can watch them go for a “W” at the same time.
To help us prepare for 2021, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle put together a list of 15 local players/figures to watch, and I’ll share the top-ranking entries from each side of the Bay. First on the list is both Giants and pandemic related, with two voices we’ve grown comfortable with.
1. Mike Krukow/Duane Kuiper: Fans still won’t enjoy access at ballparks that was taken for granted pre-COVID, so broadcasts will be more important than usual in this made-for-TV baseball era. Kruk and Kuip have entertained fans for three decades, including last year remotely for road games. The radio side with Jon Miller and Dave Flemming is no less important.San Francisco Chronicle/John Shea
While the above entry is all about comfort, the Athletic’s first appearance on this list is a bit like contempt, as in the owner’s apparent contempt for his fan base.
3. John Fisher: The A’s owner is not beloved. Fans have called for him to sell, but he won’t because his baseball team makes gobs of money and keeps soaring in value. The fans remain faithful, and the decision-makers remain proficient. But the never-ending ballpark search remains grim, an easy cover for allowing top talent — most recently Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks — to leave town.San Francisco Chronicle/John Shea
Ohhh yeah. That’s right, I forgot. The A’s ownership is terrible. Sure, as Shea points out, the roster is often sound, as it has especially been the last few years. But Oakland still allows its top talent to walk, leaving its window to win it all small, even when it has the players to make a sustained run. That’s not to mention the stadium situation, which has gone on for decades.
Well, I suppose that’s familiar too, just not comforting. And that, in turn, sounds like the pandemic. We still have a long way to go before we hit herd immunity via vaccines, but baseball will be there to comfort and entertain (perhaps in horror-movie fashion, in the case of the A’s) during this tough time, even if they have to wear masks, as we all still do. At least there should be 162 games this year if all goes well. And hopefully there will be some time at the pub at some point in 2021.
(Photo credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)