In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, sports like football, basketball, and baseball contend with a common issue. It seems likely that the MLB season could finally open, but without fans. There are ways that MLB without fans can still be enjoyable.
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Three Ways to Make MLB Enjoyable Without Fans
It seems almost certain that if the MLB season begins, we won’t see real people in the stands. We’ve already seen virtual fans, cardboard player cut-outs, and piped-in cheers. Baseball has difficulty in finding ways of making the sport fun and appealing to the fans, while at the same time barring attendance at games. Fear not, there are still ways to make baseball fun without the fans.
It’s easy to search the internet for baseball games to play, but let’s look at ways to make the sport itself more enjoyable. With the current situation being so uncertain, we need to think outside the box to improve the game – something MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred thrives upon.
The fans might not be allowed to attend games in person, but they’re still important; unfortunately, their opinions have little influence. Here are some ideas that fans may appreciate, even from afar, while they await readmission to their box seats.
Baseball is already losing its long-time title of “America’s pastime,” and without fans, things may only get worse without changes designed to make the game more enjoyable from a couch. You can try to enjoy the game from a local pub, but barstools are far less comfortable than a couch for nine innings of ball… not that I’d know…
1. Mic’d-Up Players
During Spring Training and the All-Star Game, MLB allows players to wear microphones. This allows fans to hear in-game interviews and the organic remarks made by the players during the course of play. By allowing this, fans are brought much closer to the game, yet not even fans in the stands could benefit from this.
Take a few minutes and watch the following video. The interviews with Francisco Lindor (Indians) and Charlie Blackmon (Rockies) during the 2019 All-Star Game are priceless. This is something that fans in the seats of stadiums could never be able to enjoy.
Most fans view players as a walking set of statistics, as they seem almost intangible as people. Getting an autograph or a picture is a nice keepsake, but meeting a player doesn’t mean that you know them.
Not that it’s always an easy task, but get to know a player and you’ll find they’re the same as you and me. They’re humorous, they’re emotional, and most of all, they’re human. Yes, they make more money than most of us, but they still have the same concerns about family, bills and the rest of the things that we all fret over.
By allowing players to wear microphones, fans not only get to get to see them but also hear them on a more personal level. No, you won’t hear about much of their personal lives, but you’ll be able to understand and enjoy the enthusiasm with which they play the game.
2. Realign the Divisions and Leagues
The 2020 MLB season was odd to say the very least. All was fine when Spring Training began in late-February, but by mid-March, it was shut down due to the pandemic. While it looked as though there’d be no season at all, MLB, the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) and the CDC worked together to find a way to let the show go on – though the schedules looked quite different.
When play resumed in June (summer camp), the league and the MLBPA agreed on a revised 60-game schedule, with an emphasis on interdivisional matchups. Each team would play teams within their own division a total of 10 times each (40 games), with the remaining 20 games being played against teams from the same division in the opposite league.
If MLB were to take the time to realign the divisions and/or leagues, it would immediately draw a renewed interest to the sport. Generally, people are intrigued by change, and even without fans in the stands, MLB would draw attention, as it would be a new game of sorts.
For nearly a decade the Dodgers have dominated the NL West, while the NL Central division is always a crapshoot. That’s the biggest problem with the game right now… it’s too predictable. The Dodgers will always be up there at the top, while the Pirates scratch and claw for their 60 wins.
By realigning things, teams may have more of a fighting chance. No, the small market teams will probably never dominate, but look at how well the Tampa Bay Rays fared during this year’s regular season, partially due to a revised schedule.
MLB has talked about adding expansion teams, but with a reported $8.3B loss in 2020, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, especially not without fans in the seats. They can, however, revise the divisions and leagues.
As COVID-19 continues to ravage the world, cutting down on travel only makes sense. There are already issues boiling over between MLB and the union, one of which is the expansive travel schedule. Realigning things would ease that part of the tension, give fans something new and fun to look forward to, and avert one of the issues that may (in part) lead to a lockout or strike after the 2021 season.
3. Allow the Players Access to Social Media From the Dugouts and Bullpens
Mic’d-up players are fascinating, but allowing players who are not actively involved in the game to engage fans on social media would be next-level fun. You see the faces and expressions from the dugout when a bad call is made on a ball or strike. Now, imagine factoring in a Tweet or Instagram post about how a player on the bench viewed the call.
It seems as though MLB wants to censor its players, that is, with the exception of Trevor Bauer (Twitter @BauerOutage) who refuses to be censored. Bauer outwardly expresses his disdain for the way Manfred and MLB handle things, and he’s not afraid to tell anyone what he feels.
What I wouldn’t give to hear (or read) Bauer comment on games either on his off-days or once he’s pulled from the mound. Poor Trevor would probably end up forfeiting half his pay in fines, but oh, would it be worth it!
Hang in there fans, this virus can’t last forever, and it won’t be long before we can all take a seat and share a hot dog and beverage at the old ballpark once again. In the interim, hopefully, MLB will allow some sort of provisions to keep the game interesting and fun.
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