Baseball — the First Sport to Return During These Crazy Times

They’re playing games again and that’s a good thing.

But it’s been weird watching baseball, the first sport to return during these crazy times.

I tuned in to several games last weekend and my plan was to look at it as a fan would, not as a broadcaster, thinking how I would do it behind the microphone.

If you love sports, I think we have to be grateful there are games to see, and competition to follow.

It’s been a tremendous void, and now that part of our lives are blossoming once again.

Baseball, which used to be called a marathon, not a sprint, with its 162-game schedule, is now a sprint.

There are only 60 games to this season. Teams are playing games without having to travel far and wide, and everything seems to be condensed. Even extra innings starts with a man on second base.

Every game has deeper significance than a game during a normal campaign.

When you play only 60 games, every game counts big-time. You can’t keep saying, “we’ll get ’em tomorrow”.

The saving grace is that 16 teams will advance to the post-season, eight in each league.

Sounds a little like the NBA.

It’s all about money. TV networks pay huge dollars for playoff games, especially when it comes down to an elimination game. So, they’ll be plenty of those.

I’m going back to my days as a youth here. Baseball was once about two eight-team leagues.

If you finished in first place, you moved on to the World Series. Best of seven. That was it, no one else played any more games. 

This year, 16 of the 30 MLB clubs will be in the playoffs. It won’t be that way next season. 

And the more teams in post-season the better. That’s the way of the sports world now, and that’s okay.

I caught enough of the past weekend’s games to come away with an impression.

While I didn’t catch an entire game, I caught portions of a couple of games involving the Yankees-Nationals, Cubs-Brewers, and Giants-Dodgers.

The game played on the field was still baseball, as we know it. That hasn’t changed.

But since there are no fans in the stands, the way the television broadcasts were presented was meaningful.

It was different. In a big way.

The TV networks have spent months figuring out a way to make the games as realistic as possible.

Kudos to them for their efforts. It’s all personal preference, so some things I liked, and some I didn’t.

First off, the two or more announcers for the games were considerably separated from each other, sitting in a booth upstairs.

On most local broadcasts, the commentators sat alone in the booth of their home ballpark while their team was playing halfway across the country. They didn’t travel.

A lonely announcer!



I thought the network play callers did a marvelous job detailing the action on the field, without benefit of fan reaction.

There was crowd noise piped in, and while I could see empty seats, I appreciated the presence of that sound.

No fans



There is considerable dead time in baseball, so I believe that hum, which can be raised when the action dictates, was effective.

What didn’t sit too well with me was the use of cardboard cutouts, making believe there was a real audience.

They reminded me of the targets that appeared during rifle practice at Fort Dix when I was in Army basic training.

Too artificial.

Cut outs!


I know that my network, Fox Sports, has gone to great pains in establishing a “virtual crowd”, which look more legitimate than those cutouts, even dressing up those fans in the shirts and caps of the teams playing the game.

We’ll see more of that when the NFL season comes around.

My suggestion is that they should be used just as a far-away background look, not as an effect to be focused on, or even discussed by the announcers. 

Talking about the use of crowd noise or fans watching the game only bring attention to features that should be employed to enhance the viewing experience, that’s all.

Looking at the big-picture, I realize that not only is this a strange and unusual season for all sports, but upon a deeper analysis it is really impossible to celebrate a champion in any sport, despite the fact there will be playoffs leading to an ultimate winner. 

There are too many variables to call it legitimate. It’s an uneven playing field, to say the least. And that’s if the scheduled seasons are completed.

Already there has been an outbreak of the virus for more than a dozen members of the Miami Marlins baseball team.

Their plane trip back from Philadelphia following their opening series was delayed.

Then the Marlins cancelled their home opener against the Orioles indicating rough sledding ahead.  The Yankees-Phillies followed suit.

The NFL is prepared to sideline those testing positive for two weeks.

Games might be forfeited or cancelled depending on positive test results which would affect a group of players playing the same position. 

So, how can we accurately gauge any team? What is the barometer to determine the success, or failure of a club?

Some teams will have the advantage of avoiding severe effects of the virus. Others will not.

How can we say who is truly the best? We all know that the best teams on paper don’t win. The team that plays the best win championships. Injuries are part of the game, and teams have been hampered not having their best compete in the biggest games. But we’re not talking about injuries suffered during a contest. 

Let’s be clear. This is not meant to throw a wet blanket over the return of sports during this bizarre time. 

Hopefully, there will be a titlist crowned in every sport. A Super Bowl champion. A World Series winner. An NBA king, a Stanley Cup survivor. And of course, a college football champ. Viewers will tune into the playoffs and the ratings will rise all the way to the final game.

What we all have to do, is appreciate the competition, and ultimately salute the champion in each sport.

But it won’t be the same. Not even close. In our minds, we’ll have to realize that these were the winners in the most unusual season ever. Accept the fact that we’ll never know who really would have earned the championship.

Maybe the teams that do wind up on top this year would have won anyway.

But we’ll never know for sure. They say the cream rises to the top. We’ll see.

Consider this. If we have complete seasons, it will amount to a huge victory. 

Let’s all root for that.