The Rundown: 4 Ways for MLB to Prioritize Fans, Happ’s Virtual Run Falls Short, Steve Stone Likes Division Realignment

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett

Are we closer to the end of this pandemic or do we remain anchored to its frightening beginnings? To me, that’s the question team owners and players should be asking themselves before deciding to resurrect the 2020 season.

Many of you have probably worked in crisis management before, some without even knowing it. For a lot of the workforce, it may be as simple as putting in a few extra hours each day at the office. For others, it might mean struggling with capacity management and making the decision to furlough employees or ask vital workers to take pay cuts. Inevitably, the goal in any crisis is to work toward the most optimal conclusion while building or regaining the trust of those most affected by the decisions you make. The challenge lies in determining what should be communicated and when, or, more importantly, what decisions should be made in the name of returning to normal operations.

For baseball, steps should be taken to appease those who support its multi-billion dollar enterprise. I have a bucket list that’s a mile long, but you probably already knew that. I’ll start with these four:

  1. Keep the debate over salaries for games played in empty stadiums out of the press. Fans are being asked to choose between owners who run billion-dollar teams and players whose average salary is $4.86 million. Tens of millions of Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March and even if fans were allowed to attend games, many couldn’t afford that luxury. Show some civility.
  2. Remove blackout restrictions for televised games. It makes no sense to restrict the viewership of any games when fans are not allowed to attend. Television markets are arbitrary to begin with, often overlap, and the restriction policy is probably the game’s biggest consumer complaint. Once meant to entice fans to buy tickets so that they won’t miss their favorite team’s games, blackouts are currently in place ostensibly to protect the rights of local media outlets. The market has already changed even without this new wrinkle.
  3. How about a little extra cash for consumers? Cable subscribers are getting clipped at an average of 20% for  live sports and access to live events is the sole reason many refuse to cut the cord. Should networks such as ESPN, FS1, YES, MSG, and even Marquee, still be able to collect the same rights fees from distributors, while passing those costs on to their subs, for providing no live programming?
  4. Put the fans first. It will never happen, but once states start to allow mass gatherings, league owners should look at ways to provide stadium entry at reduced fees for fans hit the hardest by the current financial crisis. Many teams have adopted a policy that allows them to charge extra for tickets to games deemed as premium tilts. How about discounting tickets to the rest of the games? A price break on concessions and parking would be nice, too.

Amid the desire to get the 2020 season restarted, MLB  must remember that emotion fuels their business. In addition to making sure facts are communicated quickly and correctly, baseball needs to provide the assurance that its fans are the top priority in any attempt to resume competition. Relying solely on the premise that baseball is vital to the mental health of the country is not enough. The league must demonstrate without any doubt that it cares about those who financially support the game.

Cubs News & Notes

Find Your Inner Hero

The ability to turn a negative into something positive is powerful.

Apropos of Nothing Something

NASCAR is preparing to be the first major U.S. sport to restart its season during the coronavirus pandemic — a welcomed return to racing and one that will be watched closely by the public and other professional leagues for missteps. The stock car organization has announced its season will resume with NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series events at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on May 17. The PGA will resume its season starting June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, TX.

Both reboots will occur with stripped down broadcasts and without fans in attendance.

Odds & Sods

Love the confidence, hate the wardrobe choices. I hope you are enjoying The Last Dance as much as I am.

MLB News & Notes

Retired Athletics pitcher Matt Keough passed away Friday. Keough had stints with the Yankees, Cardinals, Cubs, and Astros. He was 64.

The league reportedly prefers that as many games as possible are played in the home stadiums of its clubs.

MLB umpires have agreed to accept a significant pay cut for the 2020 season.

Seeing major league teams playing on small-town fields might actually add some charm to what’s become a surreal sports landscape.

MLB broadcasts will look very different in a post-pandemic season, and not just because the stands will be empty.

Mike Trout once won a high school home run derby while batting left-handed.

After adding Mookie Betts and David Price, no team stands to lose more than the Dodgers if the current season is canceled.

Mariners catcher Tom Murphy believes that games played in an empty stadium provide an advantage to the hitters.

Through epidemics, wars and national tragedies, baseball has always been a source of healing for the masses.

Jason Giambi says the sign-stealing scandal is no different than the PED scandal.

Major League Baseball owners will discuss a length for the amateur draft next week and are likely to start the selections on the original date of June 10, a person familiar with the deliberations told The Associated Press.

Dave Winfield was once traded for a steak dinner.

In a game played at Fenway Park on July 19, 1946, home plate umpire Red Jones ejected 14 White Sox players from a game after Ted Williams hit a home run, and that’s not even close to being the craziest part of the story.

Extra Innings

The Rays, led by Blake Snell, are The MLB The Show 20 virtual champs after sweeping the White Sox, who had Lucas Giolito in the driver’s seat.

They Said It

  • “We are intent on the idea of trying to make baseball part of the recovery, the economic recovery, and sort of a milestone on the return to normalcy.” – Rob Manfred
  • “I called [Manfred] a couple weeks ago and said, ‘America needs baseball. It’s a sign of getting back to normal. Any chance?’”  – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • “Safety, for the players and for the fans, trumps everything. If you can’t guarantee safety, then unfortunately you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without this sport for this season.’” – Dr. Anthony Fauci

Monday Walk Up Song

Independence Day by Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band – Springsteen fancies himself as a modern day Woody Guthrie, and for the better part of the second half of his career he’s delivered. Few rockers can be called idol, hero, or inspiration, and the Boss wears all three of those crowns rather snugly.

Key lyric: “Now the rooms are all empty down at Frankie’s joint
And the highway she’s deserted down to Breaker’s Point
There’s a lot of people leaving town now
Leaving their friends, their homes
At night they walk that dark and dusty highway all alone.”

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