Normally this time of year, Progressive Field is filled with cheering Cleveland Indians fans and fireworks. Now because of the pandemic, Major League Baseball players and owners are locked in contentious negotiations to start the season around July 4 without fans. WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says the baseball blues are setting in.
Missing the "soundtrack to summer"
There's still no deal in place to begin the season that's been delayed since March 26. In addition to disagreeing over how players would be paid, there's concerns about how to keep players and staff safe from the coronavirus. And now that Memorial Day has passed and the weather is warming up, Pluto is getting impatient for the game to return, especially on the radio.
And he said with 162 games in a season, the broadcasters become comforting voices.
“They’re almost like family friends to people who like baseball,” he said. “With baseball, it's just kind of on in the background. Then, when something happens, their voice goes up, and you stop and listen to it. Then you go back to whatever you're doing, and it's just kind of humming in the background.”
Pluto said baseball is the perfect game for TV or radio.
“People would be locked into it. Because you could see how people locked into the NFL draft and free agency," he said.
A summertime soap opera
As for on the field, Pluto said the season unfolds like a good story.
“Whether your team is good or bad, you're making trades, or you may make trades. If you're bad, you've got all these players in the farm system, if you want to bring these guys up," he said. "It’s like a long summertime soap opera or serial, you could just keep introducing new characters all summer."
Pluto recalled spring training in 2019, when three unknown pitchers became household names.
"I don't think most fans ever heard of Aaron Civale or Zach Plesac. Some may have heard of Shane Bieber. These guys come up, (and) they're people you grab on to. They supplement your regular stars, and they can give hope to a season. (The Indians) were disastrous last year. They were 29-30 at one point, and they got back into contention. It was a storyline."
How will fans respond?
Pluto said he wonders how fans will respond to this season’s delay.
“If (baseball) comes back this year, the TV and radio ratings will be very high. If they mess this whole thing up, next year they're going to be in big trouble. They won't be able to sell a ticket, and people will be very bitter," he said. "The NBA is going to figure out how to get something going. And the NFL will play flag football in the parking lot to put it on TV, because they understand their fan base."