What MLB must do if worst-case fans scenario occurs in 2021 season
ARLINGTON, Texas — All you need to know about Wednesday night’s World Series Game 2, which won’t be replayed anywhere besides the Tampa-St. Petersburg market in the decades to come, is this:
The top story from the game on The Post’s website concerned a loopy fan throwing his glove onto the field, here at Globe Life Field, after catching Will Smith’s sixth-inning home run.
Yes, even when the action on the field induces sleep, as was the case in the Rays’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers, the folks in the stands bring an element of unpredictability. They provide extra content at a profit; after all, they’re the ones paying, not getting paid, to be here.
So consider this a plea and a proposal to Major League Baseball: If conditions don’t allow folks to attend games in-person next season, a scenario certainly within the realm of possibility, then at least get folks at the games virtually.
“It’s been really good to have them back and feel the noise that they make,” Rays shortstop Willy Adames said Thursday, as both teams held optional workouts to which almost no one showed up, understandably. “People asking for a ball, yelling at you, ‘Let’s go, whatever, whatever.’ I guess as a player you miss that. That’s more energy to the game. We needed that.
“Obviously, you’ve got to adjust to the situation, but in front of fans, it’s 1,000 times better. And we like that.”
The seats have been filled at 25 percent capacity, putting 11,000-plus people here each night. That means it lacks the volume and intensity of a full house, and then throw in the neutral-site component. In normal times, this would feel lame.
After a season that saw zero regular-season fans due to the novel coronavirus, however? It’s manna from heaven. It’s looking to see what jerseys folks are wearing (mostly Dodgers). It’s hearing the volume rise and trail in synchronicity with the action on the field, as opposed to the reactions being a millisecond late as the sound engineer pushes a button of canned crowd noise. It’s hearing boos, the sweetest melody of all.
“I think that I love having warm bodies in the stands. It’s great. The energy has been great,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, whose club also played in front of live bodies during its National League Championship Series victory over the Braves. “I like the way that Major League Baseball has done things under these circumstances.”
I’ll say baseball and the teams went 1-for-2. The cardboard fans, which many teams deployed, were phenomenal, a great idea to give fans reason to tune in (“Hey, there I am, behind home plate!”) as well as pay tribute to past greats, area legends or any other charmingly goofy ideas that crossed the teams’ minds; the Royals included the cardboard cutouts of Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s,” for some reason, and what’s not to love about that?
The piped-in crowd cuts didn’t work for me. They were a tease, the acoustics without the soul behind them.
Let’s hope the country has progressed enough by Opening Day so that fans can enter, even at a partial percentage, and that’s that. If it hasn’t and they can’t, though? Baseball should find ways to get people there through streaming like the NBA did at its Orlando bubble.
Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, wrote in a text message, “Everything is on the table for next year at this point. We are just going to continue to monitor things over the winter and should have a better sense of what the options are early in 2021.”
If you can’t throw a glove onto the field virtually, you can at least boo and gasp and laugh. You can enhance the action and become part of the action, too.
This series still has a chance to be great, the clubs tied at 1-1, the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler and the Rays’ Charlie Morton going at it in Friday night’s Game 3. Having vocal eyewitnesses on site, this year more than any other, can make it even greater — and further motivate the teams to make them part of the action next year.
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