Matt Vasgersian, who will call Astros-Dodgers on Sunday night from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Ct., says he thinks that some elements of COVID-19 era baseball will endure, both in the manner in which the game is played and the way it’s covered by media outlets.
<p>Vasgersian, who calls “Sunday Night Baseball” games with Alex Rodriguez in addition to his day job with MLB Network, said changes wrought by the pandemic “have in many cases expedited what was coming” to the game.</p> <p>“Some of this is here to stay, like the universal DH,” he said. “There has been more acceptance of the extra-innings rule and the seven-inning doubleheader rule than anybody anticipated.</p> <!-- ferd/hearst/templates/premium/article/content/related-links.tpl --> <!-- e ferd/hearst/templates/premium/article/content/related-links.tpl --><p>“I love all of it, particularly the extra-inning rule. Even people who objected to it for whatever reason understand that it’s in everybody’s best interests to expedite a conclusion to games. It hasn’t compromised game play or meant less excitement, just the opposite.”</p> <p>Vasgersian also leans from the extreme as it relates to the impact of the restart on players’ health. Just as the Astros have been leveled by the extra-innings rule, going 2-6 so far, they’ve been wracked by injuries, particularly in the pitching staff.</p> <p>“I don’t know if any of that was avoidable,” he said. “You can point to pitchers stopping and starting in the middle of spring training as being a hurdle they had to conquer, but not all the guys who got hurt had that plight.</p> <p>“A lot of it is bad luck. Players are better trained and prepared physically, and they still get hurt. I’m not ready to blame it on the rules or the climate. Everything is case-specific in that regard.”</p> <p>Access also has been impacted by COVID-19, as reflected by the fact that ESPN is calling its Sunday games from studios. Vasgersian, who calls the world feed for Major League Baseball during the World Series with Buck Martinez, said he doesn’t know if he will return to ballparks for the series this year.</p> <p>As for whether on-field chats during batting practice or pregame clubhouse sessions are a thing of the past, Vasgersian expects elements of this year’s reduced access to remain next season.</p> <p>“I don’t think anyone thought a complete end to personal access was coming, but I don’t know that the players’ association loved having writers in the clubhouse at all,” he said. “If some element of what we’re doing sticks around, such as limited media access, I don’t think I’d be surprised.”</p> <p>As for the game on the field, Vasgersian said the Reds and Yankees have been among the biggest disappointments and the Orioles and Marlins among the biggest overachievers. Teams like the White Sox and Padres, he said, have lived up to their preseason reputation as teams on the rise.</p> <p>Vasgersian has called several sports during his career off monitors, so he said he’s been able to cope with the limitations of doing remote baseball.</p> <p>Other than moments like not being able to follow multiple baserunners advancing on extra-base hits or keeping track of defensive replacements between innings, he said, “It’s been OK. The viewers understand that we’re limited by not being there.”</p> <p>Major League Baseball appears set on locations for the league championship series and World Series, but Vasgersian said he doesn’t know if announcers will return to the ballpark for those games.</p> <p>“I’m operating under the assumption we will be in the studio,” he said. “With the risk and reward of sending everybody back to the ballpark, I don’t know that you can justify it. Quarantine restrictions could make it challenging.”</p>