Virus should add initials to MLB
The 2021 baseball season fast approaches with pitchers and catchers reporting.
The ongoing pandemic has forced league officials to adopt new safety criteria and reinstate changes adopted during the previous campaign and a few warrant further review.
The popular day/night seven-inning doubleheader returns and with it several questions. Will ownership be discounting ticket costs by 22% since fans are seeing two fewer innings? Also, should the seventh-inning stretch now take place midway through the fifth inning of these contests?
If not, consideration should be given to changing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to “Time to Exit the Ballpark.”
Also back by unpopular demand is the strategic placement of a runner on second base at the start of any extra inning for purposes of heightening the game’s entertainment value while limiting excessive exposure caused by rain delays or by actually playing additional innings.
Expanded rosters could give rise to a new specialist known as a DEIBR, short for Designated Extra Inning Base Runner and a cross between Claudell Washington and Willie Mays Hayes.
Late-inning relievers loathe this rule, especially since a quick Google search reminds us that, in situations with a runner on second and even one out, a run scores 42 percent of the time.
The days of the shutdown closer sporting a microscopic ERA (think Aroldis Chapman or Mariano Rivera) may be history.
Outside the basepaths, two new job designations will exist in 2021.
Teams must hire Mask Enforcement Officers or MEOs, people responsible for doling out heavy fines for non-compliance during games with all money collected donated to charity.
One wonders if the MEO will be openly credentialed and in full view or linger in the shadows waiting to bust rogue groups of non-mask wearing hooligan players.
Mask-wearing will now be mandatory at all baseball facilities except when guys are participating in warmups or actual games meaning that any trainer rubbing liniment to sore-armed shoulders, any player relaxing in the whirlpool or playing Euchre in the clubhouse better mask up or risk detection by the team’s MEO.
Contact Tracing Officers or CTOs will work within a new Contact Tracing Work Group (CTWG) and bear the responsibility for identifying and reporting instances of close contacts.
What hasn’t been clarified is exactly who will monitor MEO and CTO activity. Will some independent agency periodically audit these two new entities or will teams in the hunt for a playoff berth in September look the other way and essentially cook their own books?
Off-the-field player behavior will be more closely regulated as additional new codes of conduct stipulate that following any workout, major leaguers must be persona non grata at indoor restaurants, bar and nightclubs or any indoor gathering where more than 10 live bodies have assembled.
While on the road, players are only allowed to go out for team activities, picking up food or exercise.
Since players are permitted outdoors to grab a bite to eat and exercise in groups of nine or less, I would think those pedal-powered booze cruises occasionally seen weaving their way through the streets of breezy resort towns would be the perfect respite for weary players after a day game at Wrigley just as long as that 10th stool isn’t occupied.
DEIBRs? MEOs? CTOs? Welcome to the pandemic ball era.
Bill Contz was a starting offensive tackle on Penn State’s first national championship football team in 1982 and went on to play six seasons in the NFL with New Orleans and Cleveland. Contz published a book in 2017, “When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams.” He resides in Pittsburgh and winters in Arizona.