Friday, July 10, 2020

Don't play ball

Normally, reading the following comments from Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Gialito would fill me with the warmth of anticipation. “[The] first inning I felt was a nice pace, established some pitches there,” he said of a recent start in so-called Summer Camp.
Second inning rushing, I felt like I was a little bit out of my mechanics and needed to make an adjustment. In a real game, that’s something [catcher James] McCann would recognize. We talked about it after. After I walked the first guy and went 2-0 the next guy, he’d be out there getting me reset. Third inning, [I] bounced back, made the necessary adjustment. It was a solid inning. Overall it was good work.
I've been missing this kind of baseball talk: unhurried, granular, the everyday work of the game, of a guy tuning up. Yet such modest talk feels reckless now, as Major League Baseball prepares to play a "season" of sixty games, a meaningless mad dash against great and perhaps lethal odds in order to reap the financial benefits of cable, streaming and advertising revenues and thus to satisfy owners and investors, to desperately keep baseball on the cultural radar and in the minds of casual fans, and to allow highly-paid professional players to do what they do. The foreground is the so-called Grand Old Game assuming its rightful role as "healer" of the nation, a gently smiling, field-taking Pastime that we apparently need; the background is a chaotic blur of rising COVID-19 rates, tragic and unnecessary deaths, and an appallingly heartless, ignorant administration more than willing to trade lives for self-serving politics. I feel for those at the less remunerative levels of the game—the park attendants and concession stand employees, the parking lot guys, the grounds crew, et al—but I don't know that baseball should proceed. I imagine the wheels falling off within a week or two as more players and staff become infected, and the notion of playing seems, finally, inappropriate and reckless. I could be wrong, and though I miss baseball on the radio and the kinds of daily comments like Gialito's—that is, the game itself, not the often craven and cash-obsessed sport—I would happily do without for the greater good. It's hard to imagine what October will look and feel like, let alone next week. Play ball? Let's wait, wear our masks, travel only when it's essential, work as we need to within CDC guidelines, and meanwhile dial up some favorite classic games on YouTube. We'll all thank ourselves next March, when Gialito and other rested players can get back to the business of murmuring about making adjustments, the small and less-risky kind.

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