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U.S. Navy fighter jets fly over SunTrust Park during the national anthem before a baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres in Atlanta, Friday, April 14, 2017. This isn't just another opening day in Atlanta. The Braves are playing their first regular-season game in SunTrust Park, the new stadium that replaced Turner Field. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Opening Day eve

Thursday was supposed to be the first day of the baseball season.

(It also was going to be the magical middle Thursday of March Madness, which would have started the Sweet 16 games. To that, you know the rules: If TFP college hoops poohbah Mark Wiedmer writes about college hoops, we read and link Weeds on college hoops. Here's his best eight Sweet 16 games in his 37 years of covering the NCAA tournament for the TFP. Yes, 37 years.)

As for baseball, we mention Opening Day for a couple of reasons.

First, it is assuredly high on the list of things I will miss as we handle the corona and the results of being shut-ins. In fact, there are few things that have been as consistent in my 49 years on this planet as the tapestry of baseball in general and the soundtrack of my summers being played out to a Carey calling the Braves in the background of summer nights.

And that consistency of baseball has carried the years, regardless of the changing stages of my life. Playing it as a kid. Obsessing over it and the early incarnations of travel teams in middle and high school. Transitioning into serious softball and a load of fantasy baseball leagues, as well as taking the most memorable spring break trip of my life with my late father, seven fraternity brothers, my cousin and my uncle to 14 spring training games in eight days in 1994. Becoming a sports writer after college. Moving to Chattanooga and becoming a regular at BellSouth and eventually AT&T. Moving into coaching youth leagues.

And, as James Earl Jones' character Terence Mann tells Costner's Ray Kinsella, "The one constant through all the years, Ray has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, THIS game it's part of our past, Ray. It reminds us all of all that once was good and that could be again."    

Second, this story from ESPN's excellent baseball reporter Jeff Passan details the conversations MLB bigwigs and the MLB players association are having about the hiatus and possible restart, which both sides optimistically see happening in early June.

Some of the interesting tidbits:

— Multiple players have told Passan and other ESPN MLB insiders that they are open to playing as many as two doubleheaders a week to make up for lost games;

— Players' salaries will be prorated for games played, which seems kind of obvious, but makes the openness for Des more clear. For easy math, if a player makes $16.2 million per season, he loses $100,000 per game missed. Cue Ernie Banks — "Hey, let's play 2," right?

— The recognition that baseball is located in the nation's most populated cities, which have been hit the most hard by the corona. There is a possibility that the season could return in spring training facilities or minor league parks that have fewer cases;

— It seems like an impossibility for the MLB draft to happen for a slew of reasons, ranging from the high school and college seasons being cancelled to scouts being off the road and to the hundreds of millions spent by teams signing those young players in a time of a real economic crunch;

The ripples and decisions — just the contracts, years of service terms, the lost stats and how it will impact arbitration, et al. — that baseball faces reach way beyond the simplistic "When can they play again?"

Still, when can they play again? Because people will come, Ray.

People will most definitely come, whenever baseball returns.



No good deed goes unpunished

OK, Trevor Lawrence enters his junior season with as much hype as any quarterback since Tim Tebow.

Tuesday evening Lawrence, the long-haired Clemson star, found his way into the NCAA spotlight for - wait for it - lending his name to a GoFundMe site trying to raise money to help folks fighting the corona.

Ah, the NCAA. Maybe, "only the NCAA," right?

Lawrence and his girlfriend were trying to think beyond themselves and help humanity — a trait and wisdom far beyond their early 20 years.

But the Clemson compliance cogs kiboshed the cause.

Why? Because they feared that it would be an NCAA violation.

It's important to note that this came from the Clemson people, and there no doubt will be some non-denial denials from Mark Emmert's bunch of merry incompetents in the days ahead.

This, however, is the latest ripple from the cannonball of clownness that the NCAA has dropped into the lake of sensibility. This is a career achievement award of over-reaching rules and over-reacting regulations that govern to close the loopholes rather than encourage growth and competition.

No, the NCAA did not shut down Trevor Lawrence's act of compassion and charity.

The NCAA only created an antiquated and flawed system in which kindness is against the rules.



Cam healthy and hungry

Cam Newton got a physical in Atlanta and was given a clean bill of health.

He is arguably one of the most polarizing players in all of sports, all things considered. And I'm not really sure why, because by all accounts dude is a generally nice and kind dude.

Some of it has been self-inflicted — the laptop theft at Florida, for example — and some it is perception of his body language or clothes or even the fact that he carried Auburn to a national title.

But at his best, Cam is a dynamic game changer. Is he traditional? Of course not. Heck, he's not even part of the new generation crafting the traditions that make RPO as recognized as MLB in football anagrams.

He was a fullback who could fling it. A bull with a rocket on his right shoulder. He was Earl Campbell blended with Earl Morrell.

And now he's a free agent. Will he ever get back to the 2015, MVP-level Cam?

Doubtful. The wear and tear of playing that position that way at that level are not washed away with rest and painkillers.

Those are not bruises that fade as much as erosion of the rocks in a riverbed.

But Cam posted that he's back and he's "hungry" to succeed again.

And that, as someone who has always been a Cam fan and supporter for obvious reasons, would make me want to sign him if I needed a QB.

Because if Ryan Tannehill can redirect his career with seven good weeks in Nashville, do you really want to bet against Cam if he is truly healthy?    


This and that

— We posted the interesting and factual Passan story on baseball and its negations of the monster details before getting back to the business of baseball. Here from The Athletic — yes, it's a pay site — is a fun and creative look at what baseball could try in a season unlike one we have ever seen. And considering the biggest hurdle to baseball making significant changes to its game have been the "purists," this shortened, never-imagined set of circumstances could be the perfect chance to try to reconnect to the American public. Some of the examples: Start the season with the All-Star Game; with the flood of potential doubleheaders, make those DHs seven-inning games; expand the playoff field. Thoughts?

— Mets ace Noah Syndergaard is going to have Tommy John surgery. Makes a lot of sense, considering goodness knows when the season will start.

— Nick Saban filmed a PSA about fighting the corona. I think one of the super truths I've seen on the interweb about the corona is if the virus threatens the college football season, then the South will shut its doors for the next two months. And sadly, for the first time, I am starting to wonder that the start of college football season may be impacted by this.

— Amid the logo changes being unveiled this week, the two L.A. NFL teams — Rams and Chargers — have offered new looks. Here's hoping they don't do anything stupid and change those great helmets — both of them.

— Speaking of helmet changes, not sure if it's some bored and creative dudes using their computers or ideas being floated out there, but here are some different looks for a Falcons helmet I saw on Twitter. (The Falcons are reportedly going to have new unis, but again, I'm not sure if these helmets are interweb fodder or actual possibilities.)

 

Today's question

Which way Wednesday starts this way.

Which NFL helmet is the best? (Now and all time, if you would like.)

Which role will be James Earl Jones' legacy, voice of Darth Vader, voice of Mustafa or Terence Mann in "Field of Dreams?" (People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.)

Which QB will be a Game 1 starter next season, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or Jarret Stidham?

As for today, March 25, let's review.

Wow, some days the best birthday is either a Chris Penn — Sean's late brother and a great '80s wingman in "All the Right Moves" and the Kevin bacon classic "Footloose" — or someone else.

Today, there are some bonafide one-name legends. Elton is 73. Aretha would have been 78.

Also of note, Danica Patrick is 38 today.

On this day in 1934, Horton Smith won a little event called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. Yes, that was the first Masters.  

We're kind of baseball heavy today, so let's stay there. Today, Tom Glavine is 54. Yes, 54.

Who makes the Rushmore of Atlanta Braves? Go.

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