A few weeks ago, we were excited at the prospect of a partial 2020 season for Major League Baseball, restoring tempered normalcy to our pandemic-constricted times. We thought the league of summer could lead the way.
Well — to quote the Margie Gunderson character in “Fargo” — that passed.
Baseball is the only major team sport that doesn’t involve propelling an object back and forth across a centerline in pursuit of a goal. For more than a month, however, the owners and players have insisted on playing that type of game metaphorically. Every time a deal seemed in reach, the labor-owner sludge match would be renewed. The main obstacle hasn’t been health, concerns about which can be managed, guardedly, by creating a substantially closed environment for the game. It’s been how much money will be made by whom.
As of Friday, the owners had made an offer for a 60-game season with prorated pay for players, a concession. The Players Association had followed with a counterproposal for a 70-game season. The narrowing of the divide offers hope, but it’s the tenuous sort that one might have when one’s favored team is down by a couple of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the opponent’s ace closer is on the mound.
As CBS Sports writer Matt Snyder wrote: “This needs to happen within the next two or three days or it [won’t] be happening at all in 2020.”
Is a season so shortened worth playing? Not everyone thinks so. That includes, notably, the former Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame finesse hitter Rod Carew. “I don’t want to watch a baseball game with no one in the stands because to me it’s not exciting that way,” he told CBS Sports Radio. “I think it’s crazy. I’m more concerned about the players and the players’ families than I am about playing baseball at this time.”
It also includes, for practical purposes, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He told the Los Angeles Times that any schedule, including postseason play, should be wrapped up by September to avoid bumping up against any new wave of COVID-19 infections. That would be tough timing to manage. (Fauci also is cool on the idea of an NFL season.)
Other major sports like the NBA and NHL have laid touch-and-go plans to resume action, so baseball has missed its opportunity to inspire by example. We still think a season is worth having, even in a quiet atmosphere.
In the interim, meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins have offered some inspiration in connection with the other big story of 2020 — racial injustice — by removing the statue of former team owner Calvin Griffith from outside of Target Field. In 1978, Griffith had said that Carew (aforementioned in this editorial) was a “damn fool” for playing for as little money as he did and that the Twins had decided to come to Minnesota from Washington “when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here.”
Carew reacted to these developments with a grace to which we all can aspire. He said he doesn’t consider Griffith’s comments representative of the man, but that “while I’ve always supported the Twins decision to honor Calvin with a statue, I also remember how inappropriate and hurtful his comments were on that fateful day in Waseca. The Twins did what they felt they needed to do for the organization and for our community. While we cannot change history, perhaps we can learn from it.”