FRANK FRANGIE: Baseball’s back!

FRANK FRANGIE: Baseball’s back!

By: Frank Frangie

This and that …

The wife and I went to dinner with friends last night, came home, and turned on live MLB baseball.

Indulge me, if you will, as I write part of that again. Came home, and turned on live MLB baseball.

Man did that feel good to type. There had not been live baseball since March 12. That is 128 days if you’re counting. One hundred and twenty-eight days.

The game didn’t matter. I DVR’d the Pirates-Indians and Mets-Yankees and came home to watch both. Fell asleep watching, woke up, watched some more. There were no fans. They were just exhibitions. Some stars were missing. And at the end of the games lot of the players were wearing numbers in the 70s and 80s.

Who cares? It was televised, MLB baseball. And this Thursday, it begins for real. As real as a 60-game sprint without fans, with some goofy rules, can be. And I can’t wait.

But from last night, some impressions:

  • The ambient sound crowd noise was pretty cool. If you think about it when you are watching, it seems kinda corny. But if you allow yourself to forget about it and just watch, not focusing on the fact that the noise is artificial, it worked. I liked it.
  • There are tons of masks. Some players even wear them when playing. I noticed the first basemen in the field, when holding runners on, had the masks up. (They are actually neck gaiters that players can pull up and down). The theory is that is when they are closest and the most face-to-face with opposing players. But managers and coaches in dugouts all had them on during the game. Some used plexiglass face shields attached to their caps. But most used masks.
  • A number of players contracted COVID-19 in recent days and were scratched immediately and put on quarantine. Teams are hoping desperately for those back-to-back negative tests, 24 hours apart.
  • I was not distracted by the lack of fans. But I did notice. You really notice during the wide shots. During the actual game action, with almost every shot starting with the centerfield camera behind the pitcher, it is noticeable, but not distracting. But during the rest of the action it’s fine.
  • That said, I don’t think I’m gonna like the cutouts of fans in the stands. The Mets had those behind home plate and I thought it looked kinda goofy.
  • Overall, it felt the same. Looks like home announcers will be in their normal booth, national and road announcers will call the game from remote studios. Which, for one season, probably will be fine. Moving forward, if and when we are beyond the pandemic, having broadcasters on location matters. Just having them give the feel of the setting, the mood in the city, the vibe. But as we navigate what we hope is just this one odd year, I think fans will accept it just fine. …

At this point, if Yannick Ngakoue doesn’t come to camp and play, he’s really just hurting himself. I’ve said it and written it a bunch of times — if he wants to make huge amounts of money, then get in shape, come to camp so you can be the best version of yourself, play for the tender (and be the highest paid player on the team), get double digit sacks, a few strip sacks, run one or two of them back, and then cash in on a HUGE payday down the road.

Anyone giving him any other advice than that is doing him a disservice. It’s no longer about whether you felt wronged in the past. That is over. You can’t control yesterday. But you darn sure can control today and beyond. If you want big bucks in the future, the path to that is pretty clear. …

We’ve known all along that how baseball manages actual play during the pandemic will tell us much about how football will manage it. Both are outdoor sports generally played in front of tens of thousands of fans. Neither sport has chosen to play in a bubble like the NBA and NHL, which had played much of their seasons already and plays with fewer players on the court/ice and indoors.

Baseball seems to have gotten through an abbreviated spring training/camp without too many issues. And seems to have launched games the same way. The question now becomes can football follow suit.

The one gigantic difference, obviously, is contact. I mentioned earlier, first basemen wore masks when holding on players who are right next to them. So I have to wonder, will SOME football players try to play in masks? Linemen, maybe, who are directly across from opponents? Seems improbable, I know, it’s probably hard enough to breathe in a sport that physical and grueling. But I do wonder.

Will players have gaiters pulled up in huddles, then pull them down as they walk to the line of scrimmage? Will players on the sidelines, or coaches, wear masks the entire time? Baseball umpires are going to wear masks the entire time, will football officials follow suit?

Again, keep watching baseball to learn some of the answers. Or if not the answers, to at least think about some of the questions. Much to be learned there. …

I’ve spoken with numerous people associated with various NFL teams in the last week — players, coaches, broadcasters — really from all around the league. And it does appear clear that most in the NFL are pretty convinced that everything is going to start on time. Coaches and players are packing their bags and getting ready to report. None of the ones with whom I spoke expect, at least as of now, for much to be altered.

That said, this thing remains fluid, we all know that. And the NFLPA and NFL still have some things to work out it would appear. Specific health protocols, compensation if the season gets halted or never starts, do they do away with the two remaining preseason games, which is what the union prefers.

I don’t know the final resolution to any of those questions. But I do sense, as of now, everyone is headed to camp in a week and a half, which was the plan all along. …

Meanwhile, the college season seems more tenuous than it had been. The recent surge has seemed like more of a blow to college football than any other sport.

I still believe players will go to camp, practice, and plan to play. And I still think we’re looking at an abbreviated season — 9 or 10 games, with the guarantee games gone, teams playing mostly conference games, with one or two non-conference games at the most for the SEC, ACC and Big 12. (The Big 10 and Pac 12 have already announced conference games only).

There are two real keys to all of this:

  • When the players finally are together in camp (most teams have their players together now, but aren’t yet officially in camp) and the grind of camp starts to wear them down, will ALL the players be able to resist slipping away just to refresh? Just that one night at the local bar or party, you know, just to get my head on straight. I’ll be back late at night and nobody will know the difference.
  • When the student population returns, at the schools that are bringing students back, and suddenly the thought of heading to a party or a bar seems that much more attractive, will ALL the players in camp resist again?
  • For teams that manage to avoid that, the season can move forward. There still will be periodic positive tests, causing quarantines and the temporary loss of players, sometimes good players. But the sport can survive that. What it can’t survive is an outbreak. Stay tuned. …

Man it is hot out. Is it this hot EVERY summer, or does it seem hotter because there is less to do? Sheesh it’s hot. …

Not surprised Bryson DeChambeau melted down a bit with the 10 on the par 5 Friday at the Memorial. He is obviously the ultimate long hitter on tour, and long hitters in golf, at every level, often think they can overpower trouble. Just swing hard and the length will solve every thing.

Those are the players who wow people and sometimes go very low because of their length. But they also are the players most susceptible to putting up a big number.

Still, DeChambeau isn’t going anywhere. He’s really good. That was one blip. His wedge game is his weakness, and it is only weak by comparison to everything else. Like him or not, he’ll be really fun to follow this year and beyond. …

Frankie Valli is scheduled to come to the Florida Theater next year and I’m going. No questions asked. I think everyone on our show is going to go. He’s 86, by the way. Eighty-six. And touring. God Bless Him. Oh what a night that will be. …

Monday is a huge day for high school football in Florida. The FHSAA has an emergency board of directors meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. to discuss the status of fall sports. Currently, fall sports are scheduled to begin practice July 27, exactly one week later. …

Does the pandemic and lack of activity increase the body’s need for — and pursuit of — sweets? Asking for a friend. …

Kudos to the folks at Edward Waters College who are desperately trying to play football in the fall. The school lost a bunch of opponents because of COVID-related cancellations, but they are still trying to find opponents. Wishing them the best. …

Watched the new movie Irresistible with Steve Carell and Rose Byrne and written and produced by Jon Stewart. It’s really good. …

I’d be totally disingenuous if I said I care deeply about sports other than baseball, basketball, football, golf. Those are the ones I look forward to and watch. But the realization that we zipped right through the spring-summer calendar without the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and Wimbledon still freaks me out a bit. I know some are happening in the fall. But still. …

I think the splotchy, itchy, salt and pepper quasi-beard is staying for awhile. Wife’s request. It looks awful. I think she needs new glasses. …

Cheers.