Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Pittsfield Suns made logical, difficult choice to cancel on 2020 season

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When you drive down Wahconah Street next month, the silence will be deafening.

That's because the sounds of wood bat to leather-covered baseball that we have all gotten used to hearing won't exist now that the Pittsfield Suns ownership have told the Futures League that they are taking 2020 off.

We received a copy of an email Suns owner Jeff Goldklang sent to the other Futures League owners, saying "Due to overwhelming obstacles caused by the ongoing pandemic, the Suns are unable to open this year."

It's a disappointing decision by the Goldklang Group, but one that is understandable.

This is not anything that Suns fans and area residents should be angry about. After all, the NCAA did not crown Division I basketball champions, a decision that had far greater ramifications.

But if you are upset by the decision, don't take it out on the team next year. Get your tickets, buy a brew and a brat, and cheer the team on.

So the Suns join an ever-growing list of teams and sports electing not to play this spring and summer.

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It all started when the NCAA canceled the winter championships and spring sports seasons, quickly advancing to the MIAA canceling the state basketball championship games and then spring sports, to the NHL and the NBA putting their seasons on hold.

Even Major League Baseball is having problems trying to settle things in order to play. The negotiations have been one step forward, one step backward. And then when the Phillies announce that five players at their Clearwater, Fla., spring training site have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, that throws a whole new wrinkle into any discussions about starting an MLB season. The fact that Florida and Arizona spring training sites are once again closed for cleaning and preparations could be a signal that maybe 2020 doesn't need to happen.

Back in April, the Futures League's owners decided not to cancel the 2020 season, instead taking a wait-and-see attitude. At the time, Goldklang told me he was cautiously optimistic.

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"When I'm presenting these hypotheticals, all of it goes without saying that in the current environment, none of this is conceivable," he said at the time. "In the future, two, four or six weeks down the road, if things have changed then we'd like to be able to be in a position where we're ready to start a season under whatever circumstances we'd be able to play in. Is this kicking the can down the road ... to a potential cancellation? Potentially.

"We decided as a group, at this time, announcing a cancellation of the season when however remote, there are still possibilities that a season could be held — was premature."

In conversations I had on Friday regarding the Suns and the Futures League, one thing became pretty clear. The Suns wanted to play as much as any team in the league, but in ownership's opinion, there were too many hurdles.

I also wonder if the league is trying to play just to say "Look, we did it."

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There is little chance that any of the six teams scheduled to announce Monday that they'll play a shortened season will make a profit in 2020. Due to the social distancing that will be obvious in their respective stadiums, the Worcester Bravehearts, the New Britain Bees and/or the Brockton Rox will all be playing in front of smaller-than-normal crowds. Concessions will be limited.

It would appear that more money would go out than would come in.

One has to wonder if by playing the shortened 2020 season, some of the Futures League teams will put themselves behind the eight ball when it comes to getting ready for next year?

And what of the players? Sure, none of them played much spring baseball when the pandemic shut their seasons down. Is it worth the exposure to the virus just to get on the diamond?

I'm not sure we'll ever really know the answer to that question.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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