Virtually everything in sports has been thrown into uncertainty during the COVID-19 outbreak. Will the NBA and NHL finish their postponed seasons? Could the need for quarantining and social distancing extend into August, putting the NFL and college football seasons in doubt? And if large gatherings are prohibited in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus through the summer, will Major League Baseball be able to have a 2020 season?
Fox’s lead MLB play-by-play man Joe Buck was a guest on The Bill Simmons Podcast and Simmons put that very question to him. Will Buck be calling baseball this summer or during October (maybe even November)?
The longer the COVID-19 crisis goes and the more fear there is about the curve flattening as the outbreak expands throughout the country, the possibility of baseball seems more doubtful. But Buck is still optimistic that there will be a MLB season.
“Yeah, I go back and forth on this,” Buck said. “I talked to one of the Cardinals owners the other day and he said, ‘Right now, I would take July 1 and run.’ And I kind of feel like that’s the point where it has to be going, by July 1. I don’t see some two-month season and then starting some crazy round-robin baseball playoff tournament. I think they have the ability — if they want to this year coming up, if they do play — I wanna lean toward yes, to change it up with how they do the postseason.”
— The Ringer (@ringer) April 2, 2020
What Buck has heard sounds like the idea 670 The Score’s Matt Spiegel reported on Wednesday based on his conversations with sources. Under that proposal, MLB would begin a 100-game season in late June or early July that would end Oct. 15. The postseason would feature a neutral-site World Series played at Dodger Stadium. (If the Dodgers made the World Series, “road games” would be played in Anaheim and San Diego.)
“I just think we have to get a better handle on, you know, what the next two months look like,” Buck continued. “Maybe we start and there’s no crowds, there’s no fans in the stands. But I think there’s just too much invested in this thing that — unless it’s just impossible — yes, I think they will play somehow, some way starting, at the latest, in the month of July.”
We just have no idea what the situation with COVID-19 will be in July. What if the virus hasn’t subsided and virtually the entire country is under a stay-at-home order? What sorts of travel will be allowed? Even if fans aren’t allowed in ballparks, will gatherings of 70 to 100 people involved with the playing and operating of a major league ballgame be possible by then?
Buck acknowledged that the answers just aren’t clear, though his optimistic outlook will be welcomed by fans yearning for any semblance of normalcy and the return of the sports that provide diversion through the grind of everyday life.
— The Podcass (@thepodcass) April 3, 2020
The conversation between Buck and Simmons involved many other topics, of course. (And no, we are not taking Simmons’s bait on trying to concoct a feud between Buck and Jim Nantz, which he jokes about at the 7:18 mark of the show.) The two discussed social media sucking personality out of broadcasting and sportswriting because no one wants to be roasted for a controversial opinion. Also, Buck gives his views on three-man broadcast booths in addition to his experience hosting the NFL on Fox pregame and postgame shows.
Perhaps of most interest to sports media followers is Buck’s opinion on which current or former athletes might make good game or studio analysts. Familiar names like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers are discussed. However, Buck gives one name that doesn’t typically come up in these kinds of discussions.
You can listen to The Bill Simmons Podcast at The Ringer or any podcast platform. Buck was also on the show to promote his new podcast, Daddy Issues, co-hosted with actor Oliver Hudson that is now available.