Spitballer Gaylord Perry would have never made it in the age of coronavirus.
Nolan Ryan’s headlock and pummeling of Robin Ventura after he rushed the mound might have gotten them both thrown out of baseball and a strong warning from the CDC.
Remember that famous scene when New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra jumped up and bear-hugged pitcher Don Larsen after he threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series?
Highly discouraged in the COVID-19 world.
It appears Major League Baseball will attempt to play at some point this season, possibly even as soon as July 4.
But the game will look much different if all the rules that MLB proposed recently in a 67-page operations manual are agreed upon by the players association.
The concept is to create as little contact as possible to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus. That means no hugging, high-fives, fist bumps and certainly no fighting.
The chances of major leaguers following these rules to a tee are about as likely as the godfather of steroids, Jose Canseco, getting voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
If Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo blasts a walk-off homer, can his teammates restrain themselves from jumping all over the big guy when he crosses home plate?
Will Houston Astros sparkplug Jose Altuve go out of his way to avoid contact if he has a chance to break up a double play at second base?
If Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman plunks a hitter with 100-mph fastball, how do you stop players from exploding out of the dugout in the heat of the moment to defend their teammate?
But avoiding contact is only the start of the new guidelines. There are many other proposals that appear doomed for failure.
Spitting is a baseball tradition, so how are you going to enforce a no-spitting rule?
Players won’t be allowed to lick their fingers, which eliminates about 95 percent of the pitchers.
Fielders will be encouraged to retreat several steps away from baserunners between pitches. Expect a stolen base frenzy, since that makes it almost impossible for pitchers to keep baserunners from taking a big lead off the bag.
Forget playing pepper, since throwing the ball around the infield will be discouraged. But sales of baseballs should skyrocket, since balls will be thrown away after being touched by multiple players.
The games will look more like scrimmages since fans are expected to be banned at least initially. The proposed ban also includes non-essential personnel like mascots, so bye-bye Phillie Phanatic and Mariner Moose.
Some of the proposed rules are much more practical. The use of showers, saunas and steam rooms will be prohibited, and players could be asked to report to games in uniform. If Little Leaguers can come to games in full uniform, why can’t major leaguers?
Players and coaches will be required to keep their distance during the playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” which could be a good thing since they can avoid standing close to really off-key singers.
Managers and coaches must wear masks in dugouts. That rule could also be beneficial since it could stop spittle from flying all over the dugout if an umpire makes a terrible call.
Other social distancing proposals are very reasonable, like making temperature checks for players and coaches entering the stadium, spacing lockers six feet apart, and asking managers to conduct team meetings in wide open outdoor spaces instead of the clubhouse.
It will be interesting to see if MLB games will be held in spring training facilities in Arizona or if teams will try to use their regular-season ballparks. If no fans will be allowed into games, spring training sites would be the best idea since it will mean less travel and fewer chances for exposure to the coronavirus.
As impractical as some of these proposed rules sound, I’m all for giving baseball a shot this summer if MLB can do it relatively safely without compromising the game too much. Even if fans aren’t initially allowed into ballparks, it would still be a joy to see live games on TV instead of watching rebroadcasts of old games.
How many Rangers fans really wanted to go through the agony of watching their team lose Game 6 of the 2011 World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals again? Fox Sports Southwest televised the game Tuesday night, and I just couldn’t watch.
Baseball in 2020 may not look like anything we’ve ever seen. But at least it’s baseball, and for that we should all be hopeful even without spitting, hugging and fist bumps.