While I’d rather be writing a Corona post on Kenedy Corona, the current pandemic which has gripped the world the last month has now arrived in America and already affected the greatest two pillars of our society: Tom Hanks and Baseball. While apple pie seems to be unaffected, I can say that Tom Hanks infection has directly led to my loss of appetite, ergo, apple pie is affected! Science, baby. Grey, of course, had an amazing write-up covering the shuttering of spring training and delay to the regular season and so with this post, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the macro and micro effects that will occur moving forward. I’d also like to keep a sharp focus on just the impact that COVID-19 will have on baseball and fantasy baseball only, so while I realize it’d be weird to ignore the human cost entirely, I want to state that for the most recent CDC guidelines, go here, and there’s a fantastic live map tracker here. And be sure to start showering yourself in Purell hourly and avoid touching yourself. (Bathing suit areas should be safe. And if it isn’t, well, may God have mercy on us all…)*
*The last two recommendations were jokes, so don’t sue bro. But to be honest, a Purell shower doesn’t sound like a net-negative, so who knows…
The season will potentially be shortened or canceled…
So, the scenarios of how the 2020 season unfolds is now in question, but the season will be delayed, that much is certain. Spring training is now suspended effective immediately, so we can’t even enjoy pretend baseball. THE WORST TIMELINE.
“MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible,” MLB said in its statement. MLB had been scheduled to open its season March 26, with all 30 teams in action. Manfred left open whether each team still would play 162 games. [Source.]
Pretty standard statement, but it’s telling that we have no concrete details as of yet (to be expected). I don’t exactly know what or where the threshold is on the calendar, but as we deal with this major event, we might reach a point where either half the season or the entire season is cancelled because of seasonal issues (mainly playing in the depths of winter, something that the playoffs sometimes begrudgingly flirts with at varying levels of suck). These are probably the worst-case scenarios, but if we accept that a delay will now occur, we must also accept that 162 games is no longer the rule, but the exception.
Pros: Well, I’d have to think that a shortened season would be an overall good, both in terms of a player’s health and stamina, while also increasing value for high-tier players across the board in fantasy baseball. Think of the dog days of Summer, and then remove them completely, as an example. Whether you believe in the concept, players do reach a malaise at some point in the season. Whether that’s from fatigue, age, stamina, etc., shortening the season keeps players fresh throughout, and pays dividends for pitchers who sometimes fade a bit once the calendar turns to August and September. In terms of a whole entire season being axed, I’d have to think that this benefits every single player dealing with long-term injuries (like the next door neighbor we all hate, you know his name, Tommy… Tommy John), or any substantial injuries sustained to high-impact body parts (of which I have many). This includes shoulders, elbows, hamstrings, etc. Rest is rest, so while I’m not a medical professional, I can say that if I took a nap for three months, I’d wake up quite hungry, but probably quite refreshed. Look man, it works for bears, okay?
Cons: Well, in both scenarios, less games are bad, and no games are worse, at least from our standpoint. If we don’t have fantasy baseball, what do we do? I shudder to think, but if there’s a place I can nerd out safely, it’s here with other nerds. SUP NERDS. If the season is cancelled, I would encourage anyone here who needs fantasy-something to check out simulation leagues all over the interwebs. Super-duper-niche (just like your mom), simulation leagues generally use their own platform to produce or project stats. For example, there are leagues out there that use the OOTPB (Out of the Park Baseball) PC game, a text-based baseball simulator that can handle heavy customization. If you look hard enough, there are even simulation leagues out there that allow you to role-play as an actual player along with other human-created avatars, and to complete as a cohesive unit against another team, with the platform producing unique but grounded stats based on your created profile. Quite interesting, quite dorky. But hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. And if there’s anyone who can turn lemons into lemonade while stuck in the house alone, it’s us.
Players will be infected…
Player health is another crux. While we discussed it a bit above in terms of your normal run-of-the-mill baseball injuries, the risk of this infection is uniquely high. With reports of a few NBA players already coming down with the virus, unfortunately it’s only a matter of time until a MLB or MiLB player comes down with COVID-19. In terms of this specific strain, the current data says the average baseball player should have no long-term affects, but if there is news on a specific player you follow, be sure to keep tabs on how that player is affected during infection and recovery. This being a respiratory infection, there can be breathing issues, shortness of breath, persistent pain and pressure in the chest; basically there are strong flu effects until it turns into something worse. (A definite if!) Keep in mind the players who do have ancillary medical issues might expand COVID-19’s hold on them. This includes players who have preexisting heart conditions, diabetes, and lung issues. Granted, there is a small percentage of players who have these complications, but expect a player’s value, and their projections to change based on the fallout.
Pros: I can safely say there are no pros in this regard. We can only hope for the best case. And we shall!
Cons: Well, you can no longer hug or kiss your favorite baseball player. Chase Headley’s restraining order on me notwithstanding, I can say that this brings much sadness to the world. Especially to professional hugger Joe Biden.
Fantasy baseball drafts are now an exercise in potential futility…
Look, this is a two-pronged thing (that’s what she said), and by that, I mean drafts, moving forward, might become less meaningful, but on the other hand, become that much more popular seeing as how we’ll literally have nothing left to do in fantasy but play it out in the small increments that we can. And while we may not have real stats for a some time or not at all, we’ll still have players to value, to rank, and to select. In terms of the meta effect, this actually might be a fun exercise to partake in, trying to play fantasy baseball in a time and place that is quite frankly unique in all of history. Never has the world experienced what it’s like to deal with a pandemic crisis and figuring out where to draft Justin Verlander all at the same time. That sentence I just typed is also historic! Never would have thought…
In terms of the micro aspect, tying into what I mentioned above if the season is delayed, draft values for currently injured players will change as time goes on. The aforementioned Justin Verlander, along with the likes of Aaron Judge, Chris Sale, Cole Hamel, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, Max Scherzer, Michael Conforto, Mike Clevinger, Willie Calhoun, and others will all see their value return to normal as the days and weeks go by.
One last aspect that might be forgotten but holds importance are young pitchers or pitchers coming off of major injury. Players like Jesus Luzardo or Julio Urias who would be under inning limits will now also increase in value. If all pitchers only get to 100 innings, you must change everyone’s value accordingly. In the same vein, this also applies to players that are held hostage by their Super Two deadlines. Remember, while this threshold is based on a certain percentage of the season, less total games means that the percentage of games will lower as a correlative, allowing rookie stars to possess a similar at-bat value as their veteran peers. (Be sure to keep tabs on our rankings here at Razzball, which Grey will keep up-to-date daily based on the current news.)
Pros: Drafts will go on forever, wooooooo!
Cons: Drafts will go on forever, ughhhhh!
I want to stress again that this was a focused look on how COVED-19 will affect baseball and fantasy baseball through a lens that ignores the real world impact. This is a very weird time and place we all find ourselves in. While this post should honestly be a petition to skip all of the 20’s and immediately go to 2030, I don’t get that luxury seeing as how I have no super powers and understand so little of math that a time machine to me is a clock.
Quite honestly, this crisis will be difficult for content-creators as well. With baseball shutting down temporarily, our jobs become that much harder, but I’ll try to tackle this issue head on and create content that engages and reflects on the current times in baseball and fantasy baseball alike. What that exactly looks like, I have no idea, but I’ll be sure to make fun of your mom just the same.
So with that being said, I’m both excited and scared for what comes next. No hyperbole, we’re experiencing a measure of tumult and existential anxiety just about as omnipresent as a World War or other encompassing world calamity would have, and that many of us have no idea on what to do or what to say in our respective mediums. Baseball and fantasy baseball, in real terms, are quite inconsequential. But I feel they are necessary to all of us, moreso than ever because what is life without a chance at blissful ignorance? Let’s stay educated, let’s stay engaged, and let’s stay safe, but let’s also try and have some fun. While we may not be able to do that with baseball and fantasy baseball to the same extent as past seasons, that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to fix that.
And I can confidently say that here at Razzball, it’s never really about the destination, but rather the journey. And all the friends we made along the way…
(… like your mom.)
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him @jaywrong, or read his rarely (like never) updated blog Desultory Thoughts of a Longfellow.