By Jim Poling Sr.
You gotta love autumn baseball, especially when the Blue Jays are providing such dramatic late-season entertainment.
Toronto’s team has given Major League Baseball (MLB) – the entire sport in fact – a needed boost out of the gloom that has come with two seasons of Covid constraints.
The youthful Jays have won 18 of their last 22 games, winning series over Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins. And, some of those games were won with dramatic come-from-behind scoring outbursts in late innings.
There were difficult games to be played this week with more excitement and a possibility of the Jays making the playoffs. Whatever happens in coming days, these Jays have provided some great baseball watching.
It’s all been wonderful, with one exception: the spitting. Spitting during the deadliest infectious disease outbreak in 100 years.
Why spitting continues to be allowed in baseball is beyond me. One would have expected to see it finally disappear during the Covid-19 pandemic.
MLB has banned spitting during Covid but no one seems to be paying attention. As far as I know, there is no enforcement and no fines or suspensions for any players who continue to spit.
I messaged MLB officials to ask why spitting continues. Is the ban still in effect? I didn’t receive a reply.
Newsday, the Long Island New York newspaper, reported earlier this year that the MLB spitting ban remains in effect for the 2021 season.
The league, reporters who cover professional baseball and the folks who broadcast the games apparently are content to ignore the spitting issue.
Spitting has been a major part of baseball since the first pitch crossed a home plate. Spit has been used to soften new gloves, to get a better grip on the bat and to give pitchers a better feel and grip on the ball.
Spitting is believed to have started early in baseball history when games were played in hot, dusty locations. Players chewed tobacco to keep their mouths moist, spitting as they chewed.
About 10 years ago, players and MLB agreed tobacco would not be chewed in the presence of fans. Then last year when Covid struck, MLB banned spitting and spitting paraphernalia like sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts and tobacco.
Some argue that spitting on the baseball diamond is not a serious problem in terms of spreading disease. Players are well separated for much of a game and other Covid protections are in place.
Some catchers certainly are not comfortable with the continued spitting.
“People spit at home plate when I’m squatting and it blows in my face,” Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki said in a newspaper interview. “That stuff happens all the time. It’s nuts.”
Baseball park grass and sand are dotted with spit, and baseballs pick it up when they roll across the field. Pitchers continue to lick their fingers to improve grip.
Whether spit presents Covid dangers or not, spitting is a disgusting habit that does nothing to improve game viewing for fans.
It’s a habit that many players don’t want to give up. They argue it is a traditional part of the game, helps concentration and is difficult to stop.
Some observers say MLB is slowly adapting to changes that one day will see spitting eliminated from the game. However, they note MLB is a traditional institution, always slow to adapt; slower than the rest of the world adapts to any change.
I accept that spitting is a traditional part of the game and that some efforts are being made to control it, or perhaps even eliminate it.
If the professional baseball leagues can’t eliminate it now, perhaps it’s up to the TV broadcasters to act to prevent viewers from having to see it. Perhaps they could be more diligent in cutting out frames in which players are spitting.
This baseball season has been a terrific one, and a great distraction from the Covid nightmare we have been living through. But it doesn’t make sense to see players spitting while the disease continues to spread.
However, little in this Covid horror show has made any sense, including the confusing government attempts to bring it under control.