Thinking Optimistically About the Lineup

I’m going to do something dangerous here. No, not quite as dangerous as going maskless or eschewing social distancing, but a pretty dangerous things as Yankees baseball goes. I’m going to take Aaron Boone at his word regarding injuries.

A note that this is all obviously premature and dependent on whether or not MLB and the MLBPA can come to an agreement about how to bring baseball back safely…if such a thing is even possible. I’m still not convinced there’s a way to do that this calendar year. Do I want there to be baseball this year? Sure. Do I think there should be baseball this year? Probably not. But let’s just pretend everything is okay, even for just the length of this post.

According to Boone, of the Yankees’ four injured stars–Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and James Paxton–two of them will be ready to go for a July Opening Day: Stanton and Paxton. I’d assume that given the timeline, Hicks could be ready, but I doubt it. Let’s assume not and assume that Judge won’t be close because, well, there’s no indication he would be close to close, let alone close itself. What a mess…

With Stanton back, let’s take a look at what the lineup could be. He slots into left field, presumably with Brett Gardner manning center and, presumably, Clint Frazier in right, unless the Yankees want to roll with Mike Tauchman, which could be a possibility. But since I like Frazier more and this is my post, I’m going to say Frazier. That’ll push Miguel Andujar to the DH spot, delaying some complications with his playing time that’ll arise when the outfield gets even more full.

The lineup itself?

  1. Gardner, CF
  2. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, LF/RF
  4. Gleyber Torres, SS
  5. Gary Sanchez, C
  6. Luke Voit, 1B
  7. Miguel Andujar, DH
  8. Gio Urshela, 3B
  9. Clint Frazier, LF/RF

That seems pretty okay, right? At the very least, the first six is a gauntlet and the bottom three all have big time potential. If defense is a concern, you can easily use Tauchman for either Stanton or Frazier in the late innings with a lead.

This is all academic until we know there’s going to be a season, but it’s nice to pretend every so often during this ridiculous time.

Please stay safe, everyone.


The Views From 314ft Podcast Episode 11: Baseball’s Social Contract

Randy and Matt join forces to dive into the comprehensive safety measures MLB is proposing to safely begin the season. Last week’s episode focused on the economic issues between the league and the players so this week we explore the more important concerns at hand.

We are adhering to the shelter in place guidelines of New York State and recording remotely. We will be doing so for as long as the “shelter in place” order remains. We’re talking on Skype so we apologize in advance for any sound quality issues.

The podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher so please subscribe, drop a five-star rating, and spread the word. We are working on having the podcast on Stitcher as well. We hope this gives you some distraction from all the craziness in the world right now. Here are the episode notes:

[Introduction]: We say hello to blog brother Matt and discuss what we’re watching during the lockdown.

[5:17]: We jump into the first draft of the 67-page safety protocol plan MLB created to address a potential season during the coronavirus pandemic.

[43:09]: Will there be penalties if players don’t follow these protocols?

[51:45]: We discuss these protocols as a social contract between the league and the players.

Again, we apologize for any sound quality issues. We’re making the most of a tough situation as all of you are. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the pod and spread the word.

We hope you and your families remain safe and healthy. See you again next week.

Labor of Frustration

Are we there yet? Even though I’m a parent and my soon-t0-be four year old is a curious kid, he hasn’t quite gotten to that stage. According to my wife, he dropped it once in the car with her and my mother-in-law, but not since. Granted, he’s been in the car exactly one time since this lockdown started. Given his nature, though, I’m sure he’ll be asking this question soon enough once things get rolling again. But I’ll be prepared for it because I keep asking myself that question about our current predicament.

Are we there yet? When can I see my students, family, and friends again? Is it safe? How safe is it? And, selfishly, when will baseball be back? This last question is the least important one there is, but given that this is a baseball blog, it’s okay to ask. With the owners having given a proposal to the players, we may have a destination in sight: baseball in early July.

I’m not an expert on the proposal and won’t claim to be. I don’t know what about it is feasible regarding testing, traveling, isolating, all that. As such, I won’t speak to is merits or flaws as a proposal, as a destination for baseball in 2020. I will, however, speak of the journey, much in the manner I did on the most recent podcast episode (p.s. don’t forget to download, listen, subscribe, rate, all that fun stuff).

There is a chance all of this is for naught and things go smoothly, but if the last week is any indication, there’s going to be tension between the owners and the players regarding starting back up. And if that happens, I want to urge you–as I did on the podcast–to back the players in this.

While the owners are taking a financial risk in owning teams and stewarding them through this time, they players are the ones who are going to be at the most physical risk. Aside from the obvious possible exposure to COVID itself given the tight quarters necessary for baseball, this season will be unlike anything the players have ever trained for; who knows what the effects on their bodies will be?

The owners are, as mentioned, taking a financial hit. But so are the players. A big one. They’ve already agreed to reduced salaries and, unlike the owners, their alternative revenue streams may not be nearly as robust. And there’s the difference of starting points, so to speak. To paraphrase an old Chris Rock comment about Shaq, the players are rich, but the owners are wealthy.

It’s all a bit abstract, of course, because most (all?) of us reading this are not millionaires or billionaires. It can seem silly for there to even be an argument over this. I suppose I understand that sentiment and get how people can turn on the players in this case, but, again, please resist the urge to do that.

The players are the ones we watch and pay to watch. The players are the ones who create the enjoyment and passion we feel when we watch baseball. Their health and safety should be paramount in this endeavor (relatively speaking, of course, as our own personal health and safety and those of our loved ones…you know what I mean). The players are the ones who are being asked to take the brunt of a physical and financial risk for our entertainment. The players, like us, are the workers, even if their work is unique from ours in so many ways from the job itself to the compensation and benefits. Regardless of that, they are labor, not capital, and it behooves us to be on the side of labor, even when it looks way different from our labor.

You might be tempted to say it’s their job and they should just go out and do it. But what about you? Would you run back to your job if you weren’t sure of its safety and if your bosses asked you to take another cut to your pay rather than honoring what was already negotiated?

And I understand that some of you may not have that luxury, that you may have to go back when you’re not ready or at a reduced salary, and that’s unfair. It would be understandable to take the ‘they should, too, if I have to’ attitude. But the players belong to a union and their workplace is determined by collective bargaining. That’s their right and it’s a damn good thing they have that right. All of us should, regardless of profession.

I want to see Major League Baseball played in 2020. I miss it and the Yankees terribly. I’m interested to see how a new league format and playoff style shake out. But I’m interested in seeing those things only if the situation is as safe as possible for the players and staff needed to make games happen.

The Views From 314ft Podcast Episode 10: Grocery Shopping, Masks, and Labor Disputes.

Randy, Derek, and Matt join forces to discuss paranoia while grocery shopping, World War Z, and of course the re-opening plan from Major League Baseball. We delve into all of the economic ramifications and touch upon the safety requirements needed for a season to take place. We move on to the baseball side of things and debate whether the potential regional schedule helps or hurts the Yankees. The show ends with a discussion on the biggest threats to the Yankees winning the title in 2020.

We are adhering to the shelter in place guidelines of New York State and recording remotely. We will be doing so for as long as the “shelter in place” order remains. We’re talking on Skype so we apologize in advance for any sound quality issues.

The podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify so please subscribe, drop a five-star rating, and spread the word. We are working on having the podcast on Stitcher as well. We hope this gives you some distraction from all the craziness in the world right now. Here are the episode notes:

[Introduction]: We say hello to the blog brothers Derek and Matt and discuss our grocery shopping and walking experiences while in lockdown.

[5:40]: We dig into the economic ramifications of the owner’s proposal for beginning the season.

[31:40]: Do the players have an obligation to provide fans entertainment at the risk of their health and safety?

[40:00]: Does the regional schedule help or harm the Yankees chances of winning a title?

[50:42]: How will player movement work in 2020?

[56:30]: The biggest threat to a Yankees championship in 2020.

Again, we apologize for any sound quality issues. We’re making the most of a tough situation as all of you are. Please don’t forget to subscribe to the pod and spread the word.

We hope you and your families remain safe and healthy. See you again next week.

UPDATE: The podcast is now available on Stitcher as well. Enjoy!

On Scott Boras and Patriotism

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Sports have long held the enviable position of being one of the few industries in America to seamlessly mix business with politics. Making this feat all the more impressive is the professional sports leagues gleefully flaunting this relationship so publicly without much pushback. There are American flags proudly sitting atop the stadiums. We stand for the national anthem. Some stand again in the same game for God Bless America. There are Memorial Day and Fourth of July fitted caps readily available at our favorite sporting gear stores and websites. And we’re constantly reminded of how sports have saved the collective American psyche time and time again. All of this happens without much pushback from the same people who can’t have a respectful conversation with anyone who holds a political viewpoint that is minimally different from their own.

These tenuous claims of patriotism from American professional sports leagues may be the best marketing campaign in this country’s history. It is a foolproof approach. What is more effective than equating the consumption of sports with civic duty especially in the midst of our country’s greatest challenges? In many ways, the appeal to patriotic identity serves as a “break glass in times of emergency” safety net. It stands as a tried and true call to action to bring back “normalcy” during the worst of times including a devastating global pandemic. The frame of patriotism allows those that stand the most to gain from a hasty reopening of professional sports a cover for their true intentions. It allows the powers that be to move in silence when necessary. And this is where we find Scott Boras.

In his New York Times opinion piece, Boras tugs at our red, white, and blue heartstrings. He refers to the call from FDR to Commissioner Landis to start the games up to lift the spirits of not only American citizens but the brave soldiers fighting in World War 2. Boras then recounts the crucial role baseball played in consoling the country after 9/11. The Mike Piazza home run against the Braves is an incredible moment in baseball history. George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch was an incredible show of strength for many. To be clear, these moments are important. Sports are an important part of the collective national identity. They are real-time events that can beautifully capture the spirit of our country. But the framing of the relationship between sports and national pride isn’t solely based on a virtuous commitment to identity.

It is also important to point out that these moments are all in response to geopolitical tragedies and not a biological catastrophe. Life isn’t currently at a standstill because of war or a heinous act of terrorism. Many of us remained largely confined to our homes because of a deadly virus. The conflict isn’t defined by geographical borders or opposing political philosophies. The virus isn’t overseeing test missile launches or imposing tariffs. It is silently ravaging communities, nursing homes, hospitals, school systems, employment, and basic social interactions with absolutely no regard for who it inhabits. COVID doesn’t care for nation-states and their silly squabbles.

And this is where Boras’ appeal to our patriotic spirit falls woefully short. Sure, some folks will use the fighting American spirit to boost the morale of those around them. That is more than fine. It is a totally different matter to compromise the health of thousands of people in the name of entertainment or national identity. One can make the case that entertainment is an essential business, but that would take a pretty significant leap in logic to arrive at that conclusion. Unfortunately, many places in our country aren’t in a position to protect their citizens well enough to give any certainty that another outbreak is limited. America hasn’t handled this as well as South Korea or Taiwan, two countries that were able to start their baseball seasons. So why resort to using a rallying cry that is more appropriate when humans are in conflict with other humans? Scott Boras answers this question:

However, we face a challenge in the coming weeks and months: How do we harmonize the concerns of health experts with the unwanted effects of those public health efforts? Experts believe we need isolation and social distancing, but that has led to lost jobs, increased stresses of every type and a diminishing of the social tapestry that binds and enhances our lives. After many weeks of following safer-at-home protocols, people are understandably restless and looking for an outlet.

Scott Boras

Brazenly flying in the face of medical experts feels like an expected response. Despite isolation and social distancing saving thousands upon thousands of lives, these measures are immediately minimized through the economic lens. Yes, the financial impact is devastating. As a freelance filmmaker who depends on the gig economy, this is a terrible experience. But everyone’s health is paramount at the moment. We should never lose sight of that. So, why do people like Boras choose to do so?

Simply put, it is more important for the power brokers of the game to restore their influence and gain. There is an emerging belief in certain sectors of the country that some people losing their lives so the economy can start up again is a sacrifice worth making. So the power brokers weaponize the lore of Americana to inspire many to take a significant health risk. Boras is manipulating the idea of the perceived American identity to benefit from that very narrative. We need baseball because he needs baseball. He doesn’t need it as a respite from death and destruction. He needs it to gain a semblance of power that the virus has neutered. His influence is severely limited if his industry is offline. His last gasp efforts are opinion pieces in the New York Times in an attempt to regain his bully pulpit.

Boras is like many other men in positions of power during the pandemic. They can’t see the trees for the forest because the details don’t really matter. What matters in their minds is returning to “business as usual” as soon as possible even if comes at the cost of more American lives. Unfortunately, this mindset is a core tenet of America’s true identity. One core belief is ensuring profit margins reign supreme in the face of any human crisis whether it’s enslavement, world wars, terrorism, or pandemics. And yes, this approach is within the rules of the economic game. In a vacuum, there isn’t anything wrong with trying to rekindle business. But we don’t live in a vacuum despite some wanting to apply that caveat when appropriate.

There hasn’t been a moment during this lockdown when I’ve been more confident that baseball will return than now. The steward of baseball economics has spoken. Baseball will make its return this year. It’s the American way.

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