It’s a festive gathering as Mick Gillispie, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler and Kevin Reichard discuss what happened in 2021 and what to look forward to in 2022 in the year-end Ballpark Digest Broadcaster Chat.
The three bid farewell to 2021 in this free-ranging discussion. True, 2021 was a better year than 2020, the year of the COVID shutdown. And despite Omicron rampaging through the population at the end of the year, we are looking at a situation where 2022 should be a vast improvement over 2021, as we take further steps toward normalcy.
Among the topics discussed:
- Buck Showalter, a winner on the diamond with Arizona and New York and notable fashion contributor with the Diamondbacks, is now manager of the New York Mets. The three applaud the hire. The three also applaud the hiring of Mark Kotsay as Oakland A’s manager.
- The labor negotiations continue, with plenty of low-level talks between players and MLB in areas where there’s a level of agreement. January will be the key month in the talks, with February 1 being discussed as the idea time to come to an agreement. There’s plenty of money for all, and after two years of reduced revenues, it’s in everyone’s best interest to come to an agreement.
- Mick’s strongest memory of 2021: how different the MiLB season was compared previous years, with six-game series, a shortened season, no playoffs (the plan at the beginning of the season) and struggles to house players. His 2022 wish list: improving off-field conditions for players, including higher pay.
- Jesse’s strongest memories of 2021: the lack of playoffs and why MiLB needs playoffs as an impetus to creating a winning atmosphere, better hotels and off-field conditions for players, and the rule changes at every level. In High-A, the rule change was confusing at best and tossed out at midseason. In Double-A, shifts were limited (first half) or banned (second half), moves that pleased Mick.
- Speaking of player conditions on the road: Mick tells a tale of bedbugs, insect repellant and Ryne Sandberg.
- Improved facility standards were also approved by the trio, especially improved clubhouses for visiting teams. MiLB teams will have more time to meet these new standards.
- With recent news about ballpark development in Oakland, Las Vegas, Tampa and Montreal, Jesse and Mick remember attending Orioles games in their youth at Memorial Stadium, how attending games was much more affordable, and how that affordability led to fans attending many more fans during a season. But as ballparks improved and attending game becoming more expensive, fans attended few games per year, with businesses becoming a bigger part of the mix. The Rays are approaching a Tampa/Montreal split season with a fascinating premise: folks aren’t going to attend 40 games a year anyway, so the way to drive demand for tickets is smaller ballparks.
- The three agree tanking sucks. Yes, there is a level of ineptitude with a losing team, but the union is right: tanking is bad and any new player agreement needs to create disincentives to tanking. This led to a discussion of why some organizations need to tank while others manage to rebuild without tanking. Yes, we’re looking at you, Rays and Braves.
- Transitioning to 2022: Besides a resolution to MLB labor woes, the biggest stories of the year should be a resolution to both the Oakland and Tampa Bay ballpark challenges.
- NFTs will continue to be eyed as an alternate source of income in baseball. Also emerging as an impact on the player side: the emergence of NIL contracts and why prospects may decide to stay in college instead of turning pro.
- Rule changes and experiments will continue to be used in the minors. The pitch clock will continue to gain in popularity, and many in baseball in see it as an inevitability. There is another side effect to pitch clocks: it puts the ball in play more often, and that means more and faster outs.
- There are still many things wrong with baseball, the use of two different baseball used in a season. Maliciousness or ineptitude? As it ends up, the theme of this podcast was ineptitude in the game, so the wish for 2022 is a higher level of competency in the game: players and fans both deserve it.
Mick Gillispie is Voice of the Tennessee Smokies and a spring-training Voice of the Chicago Cubs, while often appearing on Marquee Network broadcasts and podcasts throughout the season. Jesse Goldberg-Strassler is Voice of the Lansing Lugnuts and author of The Baseball Thesaurus and the upcoming second edition of The Football Thesaurus, both from August Publications. Kevin Reichard is editor of Ballpark Digest and founder/publisher at August Publications.
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