This Memorial Day, while we honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, so that we, those left behind, can enjoy all the things we have here in the greatest country on earth, are also saddened by the nearly 100,000 of our family, friends, and neighbors who have been taken from us by the pandemic.
While we struggle to make sense of what is happening right now, I wanted to help us look forward to the possibility of baseball being played in 2020. I asked some baseball fans to answer a few questions to help me judge if we are ready or not for sports, and specifically baseball, to make a return appearance. The results kind of surprised me.
It seems as if most of you are excited about baseball being played this year and feel it is the right thing to do. You are looking forward to taking your mind off everything else that is going on and look for it as a chance to escape the real world for a few hours. However, there is a significant number of you that think baseball should just cancel the season, or just not play, either because you don't feel it is safe, or because you feel they are making too many changes to it and will ruin it for you. 50% said you were excited about it resuming and 67% felt it should be played. Not exactly overwhelming but a majority.
How you plan on viewing games was a whole different story. Over 70% of you don't think fans should be allowed to attend games, unless there is a vaccine suddenly developed that would protect everyone, and over 50% of you said that you would not attend a game under any circumstance in 2020. A few of you did say that if you were guaranteed safety that you would consider going.
Nearly 80% of fans said they would watch games on TV. Interestingly, you don't feel that MLB.TV or Extra Innings should be given away for free by a margin of nearly 2.5 to 1, although some of you would like to see them offer a discounted rate, or even better, a package for your preferred team only. (This is something I will pass along to both platforms.) I'll be honest, this surprised me more than anything else in the survey. I really felt fans would be looking for a freebie and am caught off guard by how capitalistic you are. I applaud your sense of American patriotism.
The changes that have been proposed for 2020 ended up a mixed bag for you fans. Many of you feel that 2020 is an opportunity for baseball to experiment with some things that they might implement in the future. Robo umps, reduced warm up pitches for relievers, universal DH, and my favorite, free beer, all had some interest from you. Expanded playoffs, a three division structure, taxi squads, and the DH all going forward, not so much.
When asked if this seasons stats should be given an asterisk, you responded by a majority with a no, answer. The only concern is if someone manages to hit a crazy .400+, because of the reduced schedule, that it should be noted in the record books as such. You do feel that 82 games is plenty to determine a division winner, and playoff slots, and winning the world series would not be diminished in your eyes.
As a baseball fan myself I have to say that I agree with most of what you all indicated in this survey. Some of them are going to need to have other issues resolved before any discussion on them can go forward, particularly the whole minor league debacle going on right now with baseball. If you are going to eliminate 30-50% of the minor league teams, then you are going to need to address bringing guys up on waivers all year, without killing the minor league teams they play for. Does a taxi squad fix this, I'm not sure. As one of you pointed out, how do you keep them sharp during the season?
This is completely unfair because most of those surveyed were Chicago sports fans, but the number one choice for a 2020 World Series was Cubs/White Sox, followed by Cubs/Yankees, and in third place Dodgers/Angels. For me, I would love to see Cubs/Angels because Mike Trout deserves to get sustained national attention so everyone can see just how talented he is, at long last.
Finally, as we look beyond 2020, many voters think baseball, and life in general, will return to some new normal that resembles the pre Covid normal. Although many of you feel things will never be the same for sports, or life, in the world. Only time will tell for the answers to that.
Thanks to all who participated in this, I appreciate your help.