It’s back! America’s Pastime is set to return on either July 23rd or 24th. Thank God for baseball! Forgive me for sounding overly dramatic, folks. But this feels like the first point of light at the end of the COVID-riot-murder hornet-shit show tunnel. We’re not out of the woods by a long shot. But baseball is going to be such a welcome relief from all that has been going on in society. Some normalcy and sanity will finally return!
Major League Baseball decided yesterday to move ahead with a shortened 60-game season, in spite of the agreement being voted down by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the work union that ensures fairness from the League on behalf of the players.
Several things are going to be different this time around, compared to what one would usually expect from a run of the mill 162-game season. Particularly with the schedule, Designated Hitter (DH) role, and extra innings. This article from CBS Sports explains everything in detail.
I find it interesting that all teams will play 40 of their games against divisional opponents, and the remaining 20 against the corresponding league’s opponents from the matching division. As far as I know, there unfortunately won’t be any fans allowed as of yet. But this just seems like a unique, cool, and practical way to approach things. Teams that are geographically close will play each other the most, so as to limit travel, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
My favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, will play 40 games (10 each) against American League Central opponents (White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Royals), and 20 games (four each) against the National League Central (Reds, Pirates, Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers). I’m excited the most about all the rivalries this new schedule will maintain or create for 2020! Classic divisional match-ups like Indians/Tigers and Indians/White Sox, as well as the “Battle of Ohio” between the Indians and the Reds. Heck, perhaps there will be an eventual rivalry between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, since the Tribe and Pirates are slated to go at it four times in 2020.
The DH rule for both the American League and National League (the league that traditionally lets pitchers bat), is interesting too. For the first time in history, both leagues will have a Designated Hitter. That is, an extra hitter who bats in place of the pitcher. I know that probably makes some baseball purists roll their eyes. But I see the thinking behind it, and can agree with it.
Things are already in a precarious, uncertain position with teams trying to protect their players from the spread of COVID-19. They also want to limit the possibility of over-extending and injuring their starting pitchers as much as they can. On a normal, good start for a pitcher, he might go for anywhere from 6-7 innings, and throw close to 100 pitches a game. That’s a decent amount of wear and tear on the body and arm. The last thing teams from the National League would need is a freak accident, like a pitcher taking a fastball to the forearm by accident when they’re batting. Baseball, even at 60 games, is a LONG season. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and MLB is aiming to keep their players as healthy as possible.
Extra inning games will be interesting too, as each team will start their half of the inning with a runner in scoring position (on second base). This new rule aims to limit the possibility of games taking a LONG time to finish. With the new rule, teams could theoretically win with a single hit that scores the runner from second base. This makes sense to me. In long extra inning games, managers sometimes go through their entire bullpen (relief pitchers), and have nobody fresh or rested up to pitch the next day. So some guys are forced to pitch multiple days in a row, which wears them out. Infielders and outfielders also become fatigued and tired if a game goes deep into extra innings. This is a smart move by Major League Baseball.
As far as I know, there hasn’t been a plan set in stone for the Playoffs, which are slated to get underway in the beginning of October. But my guess is MLB is going to cross that bridge when they get there. Commissioner Rob Manfred is will probably just let this abbreviated regular season play out, and then go from there.
I’m just happy. Happy to have something positive to look forward to, get excited about, and enjoy. I can practically hear the crack of the bat as Carlos Santana belts one outta here. I can hear Indians announcer Tom Hamilton with his classic home run call: “SWUNG ON AND BELTED! AWAAAAAY BACK AND GONE!” I can smell the popcorn, and taste the brown, salty goodness that is Stadium Mustard on a ballpark hot dog. Even though fans aren’t allowed back at Progressive Field yet, I can’t help but smile knowing baseball is on its way. Christmas in late July!
I hope baseball brings our country some peace and happiness in the midst of everything going on. Diehard baseball fans and casual fans alike will have their beloved game back. Hopefully it will help heal the national divide a little bit, too. At least for a moment in time, politics, race, and other things won’t matter when people watch their favorite team with their friends. I know several friends who I don’t agree with politically. And they don’t agree with me. But the commonality many of us share? Our love of the Cleveland Indians and the game of baseball! For this day at least, God decided to give our nation a small break with the return of a game so many of us love.
I end this post with two of the most famous words in sports: PLAY BALL!