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Olney: When MLB comes back it will be ‘different-looking product’

The Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals stand on the field prior to the start of Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Nationals Park on October 14, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

With Major League Baseball yet to kick off its 2020 season, as it remains on pause like other sports leagues around the world due to the coronavirus, its leaders have been brainstorming.

A fair chunk of that brainstorming is about how MLB can save its season and safely return to play, which is where Jeff Passan’s reporting for ESPN Monday night comes in about potentially putting all 30 teams in Arizona to do that.

More on that in a bit, but ESPN’s Buster Olney says because of all these talks, the league wants to take this opportunity to reinvigorate the sport. So, expect some changes whenever it returns.

“I do think that when it comes back it’s going to be a different-looking product, as one team official said to me,” Olney told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta Tuesday. “They feel like this is a chance for baseball to rebrand itself. You’re going to see microphones on the field. Players wearing microphones like we did in that all-access week.”

For multiple spring training games at the beginning of March, ESPN went all the way in on that process, allowing the broadcast to have a conversation with a player.

The potential of this shined through, specifically with how not serious spring training is, as the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were both able to talk to each other and the announcing booth.

The Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman saw the future when running the basepaths.

And his clip of the New York Mets’ Pete Alonso is the best example of the middle ground baseball could find between the ability for players to mess around and also provide a unique experience.

In the first half of the video, Alonso calls out the play as he normally would and then goofs off for a few seconds in-between pitches.

The changes could go beyond just enhancing the broadcast, though.

“If they do have double-headers, they’ll be seven-inning games, which is something eventually baseball would want to get to a decade from now,” Olney said.

“You might see universal DH, you might see an electronic strike zone as Jeff wrote in his story.”

As for these potential tweaks coming to a MLB season taking place solely in Arizona, Olney doesn’t encourage anyone to get ahead of themselves.

“I had one team official say to me he thinks it’s a waste of time at this point to talk about it because it’s so far away,” Olney said. “Right after Jeff’s story posted last night, I got some response from the player’s side right away saying that there’d definitely be players that say, ‘No, I’m not doing that.'”


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