NEW YORK (77 WABC) — Major League Baseball is set to play an abbreviated 2020 season amid the coronavirus. It’s a 60-game season starting in the last week of July.
But the negotiations between players and owners soured, leaving Commissioner Rob Manfred to unilaterally launch the season.
“In the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of economic distress and social unrest, these parties seem so myopic, so self-interested and unable to see, not only their mutual interest, but unable to read the mood and tone of the country and where should fit in,” Legendary sportscaster Bob Costas told WABCRadio.com.
He believes “damage is in the public perception.”
Complicating the labor strife is the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after the 2021 season, and Costas thinks the worst of the two sides could also be on the table.
“This is just the preliminary skirmish. They’ve got a year to work it out…But I would not be surprised if there isn’t some kind of work stoppage, be it a lockout or a strike,” Costas said. “And I’d be shocked if there isn’t more public squabbling.”
Costas, who spent four decades at NBC Sports as play-by-play voice and host, is also concerned about a different stoppage, one caused by the coronavirus.
“If [MLB] had come to some kind of an agreement and then the virus derailed them, as it might yet, people would understand,” Costas said. “In the court of public opinion, people will lump it together, to some extent, with everything that went on, and have a more negative view, I think, of baseball than other sports… I think that’s the takeaway for a lot of people.”
But, starting July 1, spring training opens. One of the many differences this season, players will warm up at there regular season home ballparks. The teams will have safety and health protocols to keep a watchful eye the spread COVID-19 as it surges in several states.
The new look 2020 schedule also features no fans, and Costas, a broadcaster now for the MLB Network, is ready for a season like none before.
“We’re just going to have to play it by ear, because none of us have been in that circumstance before. I guess you could call a baseball game like you’re overlooking the 18th green at The Masters and pretend your Jim Nantz doing it in a whisper,” Costas laughed.
He also welcomes any elements or changes to the 60-game season– the fewest since 1878— including crowd noise to enhance the empty seats.
“I’m open to anything in this unique, one-off 2020 situation,” Costas said. “I think the idea of a guy on second base in extra innings, just to get the game over, is a horrible idea. But now is the time to try it. Short of running the bases clockwise, they should try just about anything.”
Costas, perhaps most associated with baseball since calling games in the 1980s, said 2020 will be remembered as the anomaly it is.
“It will have a gigantic asterisk in the minds of every fan, who paid even the slightest attention,” Costas said. “…This goes in a separate category, in a separate compartment in your memory.”
He also doesn’t think the typical year-end performance awards like MVP or the CY Young should be handed out, “but it wouldn’t upset me if they did.”
The pandemic isn’t the only serious matter enveloping the country, as the unrest since the George Floyd murder is calling for change at all levels. NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell recently apologized to black players to the league’s delay in supporting their cause. It’s four years since quarterback Colin Kaepernick stirred the pot of controversy kneeling before during the National Anthem.
“Colin Kaepernick was clearly blackballed. I think Goodell’s heart is in the right place. I don’t know what more the league can do except pledge its good intentions.”
Costas thinks the time is right for Kaepernick to get another opportunity in the NFL.
“I believe he deserves a chance to tryout for a team. It would be surprising if he was able to be a starter for one of the 32 teams. But, maybe he could be a backup,” Costas said. “What will surely happen is this. If he does tryout for one or more teams, and if they give him an honest, open-minded look, and he’s just not good enough, at this stage of his life… there will be some people who will say, no matter what, that it was because he knelt and you’ll never disabuse them of that notion.”