The drouth was over. It ended the only way it could. A rebarbative, plague-infected, player celebrated along with the still-healthy ones. After six games. Some fans were inside a gleaming hitherto-unused, untested (no pun in this “get-tested” era) stadium: the first to see in-person action since a handful of spring-training exhibitions.
(Call it, and what follows The Dangling [Hot Stove League] Conversation…another tale told by an idiot…a.k.a. a workshopping of 2021.)
There turned out to be no reappearance of baseball at the Summer Olympics after all. And no showcase-anarchy in the UK.
There were 14-innings doubleheaders and the prospect of tripleheaders.
Tenth-innings started with fleet-runners on second base.
One club clubbed 29 runs in a rout.
Teams got sick. Teams got well. Hung around the inkwell.
There was annoying piped-fan noise.
Home-teams wore road uniforms and vice versa. Sometimes, the players themselves couldn’t figure out when a game was won or lost.
There was a team playing its home schedule in another country, within a minor-league setting. (The entire minor-league season, all levels, had been canceled.)
There was little talk of manufacturing runs. (“What [made-in-the-USA or foreign] factory does that?” [hoho]) Batted balls either flew out of vacant parks (cf. scoring 29, above) or there was “a K.” The spin-rate launch-angle-analytics-exit-velocity era was in full swing (as it were).
Why outfielders? Or maybe 4, even 5? There was the cricketlike shifting of infielders.
Or…we’ve had to grow accustomed to four outfielders.
There was serious talk about fun and the pace of the professional-game.
Hitting below the Mendoza Line was virtually acceptable and probably inevitable thro a puny 60-game schedule. This sample-size determination, versus a regular-season 162 games, plus 30-to-40 preseason, in part accounts for many statistical anomalies. Essentially, we watched an April-and-September season.
More anomalies you ask? A recently disgraced, if unrepentant, sub-.500 team almost sneaked into the World Series. Something like half the teams were rewarded with postseason berths.
In hard times there were unseemly disputes between rich ballplayers and richer owners over, what else?..more riches.
And a zillionaire owner (of questioned background) would change the topography of New York baseball.
There was players’ outcry throughout MLB. (We must love one another or die.)
Lost were Kaline, Seaver, Gibson, Brock, Ford, Morgan…Horace Clarke.
Gained in all probability (thus saving jobs) was the DH by the N.L., which hereby would join the rest of the uncivilized-baseball world. (It seems increasingly likely the full change will occur round a new collective-bargaining agreement [CBA] in 2022.)
Watch out for neutral-site World Series, which aren’t plagued by the late-October or even November (or beyond) vagaries of unseasonable heat, unreasonable cold, rain, wind, and sleet/snow. Year-round international baseball, long predicted on the model of the ICC, has to be in the (metaphorical) offing.
It started, in-season, as so-called Subway Series. More and more, regional rivalries will further supersede traditional intraleague-play (there’s overlap of course) rivalries. Costs will be cut that way.
Questionable is whether, from here, every announcer will travel with his or her team anymore, or regularly gather onsite during CDC-projected waves of the coronavirus. More costs cut…and Zoom! it’s back to the future.
About a century ago, during other times of a great plague in 1918, enigmatic Hal Chase was accused of cheating, certainly gambling on baseball (and his name seeped into, before he was acquitted of such involvement, the Chicago Black Sox Scandal a year later), as we saw among several recently—the above-referenced Houston Astros as well as the Boston Red Sox.
If history doesn’t repeat, it rhymes. (This is a witticism ofttimes attributed to Mark Twain, even if he never said it; positively, he never saw the clever observation published under or over his name.) It took Babe Ruth and the live-ball era/revolution of the home run—just as, perhaps, proponents of analytics (or anti-analytics) are functionally accomplishing today—to rejuvenate the game.
Irony is its own reward…the walking shadow…
…that measures what we lost.
On to Le Sacre du Printemps! (in 2021 or 2022 or even 2023 and then well beyond that)…when it’s Wait ’til this Year all over again….
It was the 2020, stupid.