Pawel Talajkowski/Dreamstime
Baseball and coronavirus

Looking Beyond the Box Score

April 20, 2020
The story of this pandemic continues to be written, and no one knows what the conclusion will be—but we continued to face all of its twists and turns head-on.

There are few things in my life—and nothing during the month of April—I enjoy more than looking at a baseball box score. In a glance, you can learn everything you need to know about a given game by looking at the box score. There are the obvious numbers: who hit a home run, how many innings did the starting pitchers throw, how many stolen bases there were in the game.

And of course, there is the most important statistic: who won the game.

In the absence of baseball scores, I find myself gravitating toward statistics of a grimmer kind in this age of COVID-19. We’re looking at numbers of fatalities, of infections, of how much testing is being done and how our economy is responding to the decline of business and the shuttering of states.

Those numbers paint a dark picture of a troubled economy for this year. Predictions show gross domestic product declining across much of the world as most sales-dependent businesses remain on hold. This is particularly true in the service sector, or for those manufacturers that supply large retail goods.

Workers who do participate in the economy today are struggling in the small space between personal economic survival and maintaining their health. We knew doctors and nurses and public safety workers were essential; we have come to understand that in these times, restaurant workers, grocery clerks and delivery drivers of all sizes also are vital.

There are certain things that happen during a baseball game that don’t always show up in the box score. You may see a sacrifice fly in the box score that drives in a run. The box score won’t show the runner who went from first to third on a single to set up that sacrifice fly. You can follow strikeouts in the aggregate, but only a detailed play-by-play of the game shows the strikeout in the 8th inning with the tying runs on base that ended an inning.

We measure the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in big numbers—stimulus packages and GDP and unemployment percentages. We might forget the human cost in the rush to put a dollar amount to this crisis. For far too many people in positions of authority, this has been about the dollars. The human tragedy has been far harder to measure, oddly because it mostly has happened behind closed doors—or at least at a distance of six feet.

Our small part in telling this story has focused on how our readers, our manufacturing leaders and our associations have dealt with both the human and business aspects of this unprecedented challenge. We have looked at the numbers, and we have looked past those numbers at this industry’s collective ingenuity and commitments. There has been change and pain. We have altered the way our businesses are run, and we have focused our design efforts on reimagining the creative process and shortening the time to market. We have done the improbable and continue to address the emerging challenges with the same commitment to enterprise that was displayed at the onset of the crisis.

I’m not sure we stand here today knowing anything for certain about how this small world of manufacturing, or the big world as a whole, will be permanently changed by all we have experienced with COVID-19. What we do know, and what we have proven, is that when we confront fear and uncertainty with facts and resolve, we can meet these challenges head on.

That’s not the kind of thing that will show up in the box score of this crisis, but it surely will be the thing that wins the game.

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