Here’s how the sports world should change because of the pandemic:
Adopt robot umps: This isn’t a plea to fire current umpires. Baseball should keep using four umpires on the field at all games. There just shouldn’t be one behind the plate, sweating and breathing on the catcher.
Install an electronic strike zone. Move the home-plate umpire to center field. That umpire will have a clear view of home plate and can halt play if the electronic strike zone is obviously malfunctioning, and can provide a second set of eyes on close calls in the outfield and at second base.
The added bonus of this reconfiguration would be the elimination of ball-and-strike arguments that lead to people at the height of their profession screaming into each other’s faces.
If baseball returns with the plate umpire and catcher working within kissing distance, you’re welcome to question whether Commissioner Rob Manfred is serious about keeping his employees healthy.
Ban spitting: Baseball is the sport most closely associated with spitting, but hockey players frequently spit on the ice, and the occasional football player will spit at an opponent.
It’s a disgusting enough habit when players spit on the playing surface. What many fans might not realize is that by the end of a big-league baseball game, the floor of a dugout looks like the innards of a whale with digestive trouble.
There are pools of spit, tobacco juice, water, Gatorade, chewed gum, sunflower seeds and wrappers. Players walk through that mess in their cleats, then wear their cleats to the clubhouse. This was disgusting long before anyone in baseball considered the concept of social distancing. It’s time to expel spit.
End funding: I’ve often advocated for reasonable public spending on sports venues, based on the hard-to-quantify feeling that cities are better when they are home to beautiful ballparks and stadiums, and big events.
But if our government can’t find the funds to produce enough coronavirus tests for the average American, how could we ever again justify pumping money into nonessential buildings?
The answer is, we couldn’t.
Calm it down: This change has nothing to do with the virus itself and everything to do with a new perspective on sports celebrations.
They have gotten out of hand.
We already have seen athletes injuring themselves during celebrations. We have also become accustomed to baseball players dumping a tub of cold liquid on players conducting postgame interviews near the dugout.
You might have noticed that often the reporter is a nicely dressed woman who invested time and money in clothing and makeup, and that almost every time the water seems to be aimed at her.
That should never happen again. It’s bad enough for ballplayers to target any media professional trying to do that job, but bathing a female reporter who is holding a microphone is nasty and possibly misogynistic behavior. Someone in a position of authority should put a stop to it.
Players should calm down in general. These days, when a player gets a game-winning hit, he is usually pursued all over the field, then pummeled. Often, his jersey is torn off, and this might happen after a 4-3 victory over the White Sox in June.
There is a difference between expressing spontaneous joy, and executing premeditated acts of stupidity.
No more handshakes: If an alien civilization wanted to destroy humanity, they would invent the handshake, the perfect vehicle for spreading disease.
So let’s stop with the archaic, flesh-pressing gesture. This is where sports can help society.
Athletes always have found creative ways to express solidarity, and many of them are safer and more logical than the handshake.
Next time you’re in the office, try out the flying back bump, the elbow dap, or mimic Twins outfielders and execute the three-way fadeaway jump shot.
Anyone violating this code and attempting a traditional handshake should be handed a microphone and have a tub of cold water dumped over their head.