A Memorial Day story about baseball, unions and the coronavirus…
|Lee Judge||21 hr|| 5||1|
I started my Memorial Day by reading a newspaper, a habit shared by far too few Americans. (I could go on about the death of newspapers and why it’s in our own personal interest to support them, but if memory serves I already have.)
On page 3b of the Kansas City Star’s sports section, I hit a story about the players response to Major League Baseball’s proposal to restart the baseball season. Just in case you missed it the first time I wrote about it, here are some of the restrictions included in MLB’s proposal:
No exchange of lineup cards at home plate.
No high fives or fist bumps.
Team personnel will be banned from eating at restaurants on road trips.
Showering at the park will be discouraged.
Water jugs, saunas, steam rooms, pools and cryotherapy chambers will be prohibited.
Indoor batting cages will be discouraged.
Batting practice pitchers will wear masks.
Players cannot touch their face to give signs.
Teams are encouraged to hold meetings outside and keep the players spread apart.
Managers and coaches must wear masks in the dugout.
Fielders should stay away from baserunners.
Base coaches should not approach baserunners or umpires.
When traveling, the entire traveling party must wear personal protective equipment while on buses and flights.
Everyone must keep their distance during the “Star Spangled Banner.”
According to the same Star article, Larry Bowa – former Phillies shortstop, coach and manager – had a reaction similar to my own:
“I read all those rules and everything and I want to be optimistic, but…”
“I’d be disappointed if we didn’t play, but I can honestly tell you, as much as I love baseball, I wouldn’t be mad if this thing did get cancelled.”
As the Star’s article pointed out, if the risk of contracting COVID-19 is too high for players to take a shower in the clubhouse, maybe it’s too risky to play at all.
The owners vs. the Players Association
They’ll wave the flag and talk about America “needing” baseball and some of that’s true and a feeling shared by players, but the owners would also like to get some kind of season going so they can generate some revenue.
But the players have a strong union and have shown a willingness to stand up to the owners, so the owners need the ballplayers to buy in to their plan. According to the same Star article, the players are looking at MLB’s proposal and after consulting their own medical experts, have a few questions and demands of their own:
What’s going to happen if – and more likely when – a player tests positive?
What’s the sanitation protocol within clubhouses and other facilities?
How will the teams protect high-risk players and family members?
And the players want more frequent testing.
The MLB proposal calls for testing “multiple times” per week, but isn’t specific about what that means. Meanwhile, Mike Trout told ESPN: “I don’t see us playing without testing every day.”
A tale of two workforces
Over the weekend the Star did a story about local businesses and what they were doing to protect their employees and customers and some businesses were doing a lot while others didn’t act all that concerned.
What struck me about the baseball story is that as businesses reopen many of their employees have no choice about coming back to work or little say in what their work conditions will be.
But when workers have some power, financial resources and access to their own experts, they’ve got conditions they’d like to see met before they jump back into the workplace.
So once again poor people get screwed, which if you know your history, is pretty much an American tradition.
(OK, that last line is totally unfair…poor people get screwed in pretty much every country.)
How about South Korea?
If you’re thinking “but they’re playing baseball in South Korea” you’re right; but according to the latest numbers I found on the internet, South Korea – with a population of about 51.6 million – has had 267 coronavirus deaths.
Meanwhile, here in the United States – with a population of about 328.2 million people – we’ve had over 98,000 coronavirus deaths.
Do the math and you can see South Korea is pretty much kicking our ass when it comes to preventing COVID-19 deaths.
Maybe that’s because South Korea has taken testing and tracing seriously, while here in the United States the Trump Administration can’t agree whether testing is all that important or whether or not the president should wear a face mask when he goes out to breathe on the public.
As other countries have shown, it is possible to handle this pandemic way better than we’ve handled it so far.
Which is clearly demonstrated by the fact that if you really want to watch some live baseball this week, ESPN is showing the Samsung Lions take on the Lotte Giants at 4:25 AM on Tuesday.
Stay safe, everybody.