Steinbrenner Field

Washington Nationals @ New York Yankees.

Was able to catch a game before the rain, and before COVID-19. New York Yankees celebrate their 25th Spring Training at Steinbrenner Field here in Tampa, Florida. For the most part, 4-5 weeks of Spring Training go by really fast. Chances of rain in Florida make it a hit-or-miss if you decide to take the road trip. In this case, it worked out. The New York Yankees hosted the Washington Nationals and played 5 innings before the downpour. That’s a complete game on any scorecard, success! Yankee Masahiro Tanaka pitched the first two innings and the New York Yankees out hit the Washington Nationals. News broke later the same day. Yankees Pitcher Luis Severino had a torn ligament in his right elbow that would require Tommy John surgery. He would be out for the 2020 season. 

Little did we know that there were bigger problems, of the pandemic kind, around the corner. Recent additions to the 2019 World Champion Washington Nationals, free agents Starlin Castro and Emilio Bonifacio, were in the line up. Just the week before, the team had a second victory parade for their fans in downtown West Palm Beach near their Spring Training facilities, a complex they share with the scandal affected Houston Astros organization. 

Speaking of second chances, MLB announced this week that the 2020 regular season is set to begin July 23 or 24. Schedule is pending. 1800 Players will report in the coming days to Spring Training (2.0). That said, the strained labor relations between owners and players is yet another obstacle in the challenges ahead, something that will linger in the business of baseball for the next 18 months. It’s still unclear what the season will look like or how the protocol for the pandemic will play out. But, the game seems to be getting past the stalemate of issues. 

There will be a 60-game schedule or 2 months of baseball this year. Every team will have a universal designated hitter. Team rosters will start with 30 players instead of the normal 25 players. Each team will also hold an additional 20 players on reserve. They can be called upon for depth as the season goes. That would open doors for those fortunate minor league players who have been at the highest risk of career death. 

This game belongs to the fan. The billionaires and millionaires tend to forget that. The beauty of Baseball is being able to sit down to watch a game and to totally forget the problems outside the lines. And, when you get up from that seat, you somehow find the handles to the thing that was stressing you out. What to look for this year? Who knows? Moving forward, it will be fluid. There will be pent up frustration from months of quarantine, possible issues of cheating in the air, venomous offers from the owners, career uncertainty will give an ever present sense of urgency from players in different stages of their shelf life. In a 162-game schedule, August represents the dog days of summer. With a 60-game schedule which virtually starts in August, everyone is expected to play with fresh legs and with less concerns for fatigue. It will be a 200-yard dash to the postseason with no time for slumps. The fluidity may be explosive. It could be a season like none other, COVID-19 permitting.