Time to call it a season


“When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around”
-The Police, 1980

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to put it mildly is impacting the world and the U.S. like perhaps no other event at least since 9/11.

It’s brought out the best in some people and the worst in others as panic — a lot of it driven by misinformation via social media — has basically shut down most things Americans find enjoyable and distracting. Baseball did not escape the carnage with the initial news that the season, originally slated to open March 26, would be pushed back at least two weeks.

Then yesterday came the news that major league baseball would follow the Center for Disease Control’s opinion that all gatherings of over 50 people be stopped for at least the next eight weeks. Meaning in the best possible circumstance baseball could resume around May 11. But the fact is after a delay that long “spring training” would have to be resumed for an undetermined length, which would mean starting the season on Memorial Day weekend. Again, that’s a best case.

I’ve been hearing, and at CBS Sportsline Matt Snyder is reporting, that the season could start around July 4 or even later.

Time to call a halt to the entire season right now.

Send everyone home, and do what you can to get ready for next year.

A radical view? Perhaps. But consider if the season were to start around July 4, you are probably playing about 81 games. Is that enough to crown true divisional champions? And what happens if the CDC’s guidelines are still in place on August 1? As Snyder wrote, that simply would be too little time to truly see who are the best teams: “For example, in 2018 through 40 games, the following teams would have made the playoffs: Mariners, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Phillies. The following wouldn’t have been in the postseason: Dodgers, Brewers, Cubs, and Rockies. The Indians would have won the AL Central at 20-20.”

Let’s be clear, this is a totally unknown situation with no prior precedent. Baseball was played through World War I, through the “Spanish Flu” and through World War II at the insistence of President Franklin Roosevelt. The entire season hinges on how soon this virus can settle down and start declining.

But no one has any idea of when that could happen. So rather than keep everyone waiting and hoping for something that right now in the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the CDC, is “going to get worse before it gets better,” let’s end the speculation.

Could actually be a blessing in disguise, short-term pain for long-term gain?

The current collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2021 season. Numerous players over the past months have all brought up the dreaded word: strike. The reasoning? Because while it is within the contract guidelines, the owners have for all intent and purposes used the luxury tax as a quasi-salary cap.

When the Boston Red Sox, who make money hand over fist, claim they can’t afford to re-sign one of the best players in the game (Mookie Betts) and trade him to get under the tax threshold, something is dramatically wrong. By the way, Red Sox owner John Henry is “only” worth $1.5 billion … that’s with a “B,” folks.

Players are furious over this and the fact that, again within the legal limits of the bargaining agreement, teams are keeping top prospects down in the minors long enough to gain an extra year of free agent control. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant sued over this maneuver.

In short, the players are ready to go to war over these issues. Now if the 2020 season is cancelled it’s possible both players and owners would think twice about causing another situation where games wouldn’t be played. Going two years out of three without baseball could be the death knell for the sport at the professional level.

Cancelling the season could in the long run be beneficial to the sport and ensue another time period of labor piece and uninterrupted seasons.

As a White Sox fan, I’m really upset over this entire situation. Like some incidents in the past, the Sox have had no control, but have been hurt significantly. From the social unrest of the 1960’s which gave the perception that Comiskey Park was “a dangerous place,” to 1981 when an exciting White Sox team was only 2 ½ games out of first place when the labor impasse cancelled the season for two months, to 1994 when a very good Sox team leading the division and in excellent position to make the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time in history saw the season wiped out with the last games being played on August 11.

Now this.

As a Sox fan posted on Twitter, “It’s clear White Sox fans just can’t have nice things.”

Let the baseball gods screw over the Tigers for a change, or the Cardinals, or even better the Cubs, and stop dumping on the White Sox every time it seems the team is ready to turn the corner.

Do I want baseball in 2020? Sure. Do I want a truncated season that runs into late November with playoff games at neutral sites or domed stadiums (which has already been publicly discussed)? No, thank you.

Time to call it a day and move on as best we can until things can return to normal.

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Author profile

Mark Liptak is originally from Chicago and has been a White Sox fan since 1960. He and his wife Zoe reside in Pocatello, Idaho where he is the radio voice as part of Idaho State athletics in volleyball, football, women's basketball and softball.

Mark went to the University of Kentucky. He’s been in the sports media profession since 1978 having worked in television sports in three markets between 1978 and 1994. He’s also written for numerous newspapers in addition to his radio duties.

Liptak has covered a Super Bowl, two Kentucky Derby’s, an NCAA woman’s basketball Final Four and worked for CBS-TV during their coverage of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament’s opening rounds held in Boise in 2001.

He is also a Chicago White Sox historian who has written for various web sites over the past 17 years including the Chicago Baseball Museum and Chicago Now / Sox Net, a series of blogs and websites associated with the Chicago Tribune.

He and Zoe have been married for 30 years. Their son, Mason, and his family live in Longview, Texas.

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Mark Liptak
Mark Liptak
3 months ago

One other point to include in this. The Sox may find themselves extremely fortunate that they have locked up a number of their core players to longer contracts given that in the past when situations have stopped the playing of games, players were credited with service time, even though games had not been played. Clocks to free agency were speeded up because of that ruling. If no baseball is played this year, if there is a labor impasse shutting down the game next year at least the Sox window will remain open longer than other teams because many of their… Read more »

Mark Liptak
Mark Liptak
3 months ago

And to clarify another point, the current labor agreement ends after the 2021 season but as in the past if there is a strike or a lockout by the owners it will take place BEFORE the deal concludes, meaning the 2021 season itself will probably be impacted as opposed to the 2022 season. Two straight years 2020 and 2021 with little or no baseball could be the death knell of the sport at the pro level.

3 months ago

I would think that playing games in empty stadiums and playoffs into November in neutral stadiums would be more about building our country’s morale than trying to satisfy some notion of purity.

Mark Liptak
Mark Liptak
3 months ago
Reply to  fancyhughyancy

In your scenario baseball would be (in theory) competing with the NFL, college football, college basketball, the NBA and the NHL. I’d suggest there would be many other options going on to build our country’s morale. My personal opinion is that the only reason the owners would choose to do this would have nothing to do with purity, history or our country’s morale. It would have everything to do with $$$$$.

Dan Helpingstine
Dan Helpingstine
3 months ago

Perhaps in the summer, if things look safe, they could 40-50 exhibition games to help keep their skills. But otherwise, this season is done. I wouldn’t count on the NFL playing, either.

Mark Liptak
Mark Liptak
3 months ago

Just wanted to update my column today with this news from CBS Sportsline: “The MLB and MLBPA will only proceed with a 2020 season under certain conditions MLB will have a season in 2020 only if the following things happen, per Jeff Passan of ESPN: *There are no longer any bans on mass gatherings in place that would prevent games from being played in front of fans at the ballpark. *There are no relevant travel restrictions in the U.S. or Canada. *Medical experts determine playing games would not present health risks for players, fans, or other team personnel. Like we… Read more »