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Commentary: Some MLB innovations need to stick around

Steve King
Suburbanite correspondent
The Suburbanite

I try very hard to keep the “old-guy” attitude in me from having very much – if any – role in my life, but every once in a while, it gets the better of me.

Such was the case recently when Major League Baseball finally danced around the coronavirus pandemic issues enough to start its 2020 season. Included were: a streamlined, sprint-to-the-finish 60-game regular-season schedule; more teams making the playoffs; extra-inning games starting with a runner on second base; double-headers being reduced to seven-inning games; and cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands and piped-in crowd noise to account for the fact that all games are being played in empty stadiums.

Right off the bat, I loved the reduced schedule (162 games are way too many), the expanded playoffs (it allows more teams to have hope in the stretch run of September), the extra-inning change (I greatly enjoy baseball, but I don’t want to see 17-inning games) and shortened double-headers (two nine-inning games in one day are, again, too much of a good thing).

I hope some or all of these ideas can be carried over to the 2021 season and beyond, when, hopefully, things are better in regard to the virus and thus more normal.

I initially thought that MLB had whiffed on the fan cutouts and the fake noise. Faking is never a good thing, unless it fools the defense enough in a football game for your team to score a touchdown.

But after a while, even those two things started to win me over when I became more progressive and forward-looking in my thinking about them. In fact, now I think they are great ideas, not only for baseball, or even just sports, but for life overall.

Hear me out.

These fan cutouts can be purchased by … well, fans. At Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, I want to purchase a cutout of Jake from State Farm just to be a little ornery and get a few laughs.

How much would it cost me?

And as for the piped-in crowd, that has all kinds of practical, real-life applications.

I’d like to hear some fake crowd noise when:

• You’re last in a line of 15 people in the checkout line at the grocery store, needing a set of binoculars to see the clerk and bemoaning the fact that you’re spending your day off doing this, when the store suddenly opens three more registers.

• You walk into the dentist office for your regular six-month appointment, fully expecting that all kinds of costly needed repairs will be found during your examination, only to hear the dentist say at the end, “You have no issues at all. Keep up the good work and you’re good to go.”

• Your relative – the chain smoker who doesn’t shower enough and talks incessantly about nothing that any other human being cares about – is scheduled to come over to your house for a visit with his three unruly kids and his wife with whom he argues all the time. But they have to cancel at the last minute.

Yes, crowd noise would be a great idea, too. Even someone with an old-guy attitude can eventually figure that out.