67 pages. That how long it took the office of Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Mandred to cover all the newly proposed health and safety protocols needed to minimize the risk of COVID-19 enough to start the season.
Not surprising, there are a number of eyebrow-raising rules and recommendations in the “2020 Operations Manual,” such as the idea players and coaches will happily wear facemasks in the dugout on a sweltering summer day. I also particularly liked the ban on spitting, which the league should have fun enforcing.
"I couldn’t do it,” former Phillies slugger and current NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst John Kruk said of the proposed spitting ban. "It’s natural to all of us. Take a pitch, spit. Rub up a ball with spit. Spit in your glove. It’s what ballplayers do. I don’t know how you can concentrate totally on the game if in the back of your mind you’re thinking, ‘Don’t spit. Don’t spit.'”
Other recommendations seem a bit more sensible — eliminating common water containers, discouraging showers at club facilities, banning high-fives and fist bumps, temperature checks and frequent coronavirus testing. One positive sign: The KBO League in South Korea has been playing games in empty stadiums since the beginning of this month, and so far no player or coach has contracted coronavirus.
With fans desperate baseball to return, I think the league is missing the opportunity to really experiment with the game itself. Given the coronavirus-shortened season, how about turning to a pitching clock or banning batters from stepping out of the box after every pitch? After all, the shorter the games, the safer MLB can keep its players.
“Even fans who are skeptical of some of the things that have been floated... they’d be good with it under these circumstances,” longtime MLB announcer Bob Costas said earlier this month on San Francisco sports talk radio. “Short of running the bases clockwise, I think people would accept most anything. Tinker with the postseason format, go ahead! Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”
Oh, and no mascots will be allowed at games. Sorry Phillie Phanatic.