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Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger (35) is met at home plate after hitting a grand slam during the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday, July 19, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

MLB returns

It's hard not be excited right?

Baseball is back. Allegedly. Reportedly. Hopefully.

It's back tonight with the Yankees and Cats playing at 7 and the Dodgers and Giants to follow.I'm stoked.

Let's review some of the changes, shall we? I think we shall. (I had someone ask for predictions for the mailbag. So those will come tomorrow. Deal? Deal.)

> There will be a universal DH. This will allow Matt Adams to be a pretty important Braves player over the next two-plus months;

> There's what I am calling the Bobby Cox in a pandemic rule. Players and coaches can still argue with umpires because hey baseball embraces its old-school traditions like bad sportsmanship, self-policing with 95-mph heaters, and romanticizing ball doctoring and bat corking while hating technological cheaters. Hey, let the first one among us who has never heckled an ump throw the first brushback here. But players and managers who argue with umps and violate social-distancing rules will face fines and suspensions;

> Pitchers can not lick their fingers but will be given a small wet rag to keep their fingers moist; (Side note: That moist is an interesting word, no?)

> Relief pitchers must face three batters or end an inning before being replaced;

> When a game goes into extra innings, each team will start the inning with a runner on second. It will be strange and people will hate it (Hi Ron) and that's OK. Sometimes the path to a desired goal is paved with questionable decisions. The goal here is not to have a 19-inning game that could wreck a pitching staff for a week, seven games in a 60-game mini-season is right at 19 games in a regular season.

So while I'm not in favor of the runner-at-second rule — it's know as the international tie-breaker in softball — I believe baseball should have truly rolled the dice on all sorts of possible changes and rule adjustments in this season unlike any other.

Robo umps.  Mercy rules. Seven-inning doubleheaders. Pitch clocks. Just about anything.

So let's play ball, and yes, while it's not addressed in the rules, here's betting there will be kneeling during the National Anthem before every game.

 

High school football plan

You know the rules. When Stephen Hargis, the TFP sports editor and prep sports guru, covers high school sports, it's required reading.

Those are the rules every day. They are more applicable this day, because here's the TSSAA plan for high school football. 

The reader's digest version is that if Gov. Bill Lee gives high school football games an exemption from the state shutdown that extends to the end of August, the season will start on time.

TSSAA requires that schools have three weeks of practice in pads before playing. That would require schools start practicing Aug. 3 to start on time.If Gov. Lee does not grant the waiver, the season will be pushed back and reduced to eight games with only the region champs and runners-up making the playoffs. (Normally, the top four finishers in each region advance to the postseason.)

There are a slew of requirements in regards to crowd size and testing and the rest, including strongly suggesting no concession stands, which serve as fund-raisers for a wide variety of various non-football extracurricular activities. That these are 'suggestions' in some instances may cause controversy, and without concessions and with limited crowds, anyone else think there will be $10 parking and $15 tickets this fall?

So there's the plan. Will that mean there's a season?Who knows, because again, amid all the suggestions and guidelines the TSSAA issued, there is no way to answer the two monster questions moving forward that directly impact high school and college sports:

> How many positive tests mean the end for a team, a conference/region or the entire slate?> And if/when regular students are not allowed to go to school for safety concerns, how can it be safe for athletes to practice and play?

 

Doubling down

Kelly Loeffler, the U.S. Senator from Georgia and part owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team, came under fire earlier this month when reports of a letter she sent to the WNBA commission voicing concerns about changing the uniforms with Black Lives Matter messages became public.

Sen. Loeffler is a lot of things, and controversial is easily on that list. But I have voiced multiple times that, be them the uniforms of the NBA or the WNBA or the helmets for the NFL, allowing statements for causes — no matter how noble or how publicly supported — is a slippery slope and a questionable business decision.

Loeffler has stated clearly that she has no intention to sell her ownership stake. She even made an interesting point that I believe will be lost in controversy and I believe her statement to ESPN is worth repeating and discussing.

"The statement, 'Black lives matter,' is very different than the organization Black Lives Matter," Loeffler told ESPN. "I think we all agree the life of every African American is important. There's no room for racism in this country, and we have to root it out where it exists. But there's a political organization called Black Lives Matter that I think is very important to make the distinction between their aim and where we are as a country at this moment."

So there's that. Thoughts?

 

This and that

— So, the dog ate my Scratch that. My dinner caused a computer malfunction on my online exam. Yeah that's the ticket. Here's a college student that offered that as the excuse and got a redo.

— From CBSsports Dennis Dodd, the ACC, the SEC and there Big 12 are looking at a conference schedule with a 'plus one' game. Here's more.

— Also from CBSsports.com, this one from golf writer Kyle Porter, previews this weekend's 3M Open in Minnesota. Two interesting items in this story: First, Porter picks Harris English to win the tournament. So there's that. Second, like last week, players who finish in the top 10 who are not already qualified for the U.S. Open will get an invite to our national championship. Which is cool.

— Mookie Betts signed with the Dodgers for 13 years and $365 million. That's a good day. If you are wondering what means Mooke will make a little more than $79,000 every day for the next 13 years. Every single day.

— And finally, if you are having a tough start to your day, I challenge you to check out this Twitter video and not feel better about everything in this world. I am 100 percent here for this.

 

Today's questions

Want to share your thoughts on baseball rule changes? Too much? Not enough?

As for today, July 23, let's review:

Holy bleep, One Direction was formed on this day 10 years ago. Yes, 10 years.

On this day 20 years ago, Tiger won his first British Open and became the youngest player ever to complete the career Grand Slam.

Monica Lewinsky is 47 today. Philip Seymour Hoffman would have been 53.What's Philip Seymour Hoffman's Rushmore? Go, and remember the mailbag.

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