The 2020 MLB season is within reach, and on Thursday, it’s game on. Who would have thought? A season like no other is upon us, and it’s okay to give thanks.
The 2020 MLB season is historic even before the first pitch is thrown. Thursday’s marquee matchup is between the defending World Champion Washington Nationals and Max Scherzer – and the New York Yankees, who feature the “White Whale” that eluded Brian Cashman for so long – Gerrit Cole.
No one is naive enough to believe that the players showing up for duty are doing so for you or me. This is their job, their chosen profession, and the Father Time clock is ticking on all of them as they seek security for their families today and tomorrow.
Ironically, there are several players (and the list grows daily) who have decided to “opt-out” of playing in the 2020 MLB season, claiming the same reason for not playing – to protect their family from the COVID-19.
Heavy hitters have opted-out. They include David Price, Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, Felix Hernandez, and the latest entry Nick Markakis, who made his decision after talking to and hearing the harrowing story of his teammate Freddie Freeman and his near-death experience with the virus. Oddly, Freeman is dead set on playing in 2020.
We Had Our Doubts Though, Didn’t We?
As we think back to those emotional and unsettling weeks when owners and players engaged in a dance that could only turn out one way, the way it did with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred declaring – because he could – this is the way it’s going to be.
There were times when we wavered and perhaps even considered abandoning baseball. Because a funny thing did happen on the way, and many of us found there is life after (no) baseball.
Readers will recall the numerous columns I wrote during that span bemoaning and castigating MLB and the player’s union (MLBPA) for their deceptive and counterproductive behavior.
But we never lost sight of the fact there is a better life with baseball, and for that, we can now be grateful we waited it out – just as the players have.
2020 MLB Season: Adjusting To A Unique Double-Challenge
Up and down the line, players, fans, announcers, reporters, and a host of other periphery personnel essential to staging a ballgame, will put on their “game face” in meeting the upcoming challenges of the 2020 MLB season.
For one, we can’t attend a game, and we’re stuck with jumping through hoops to watch our team(s) on television networks that are not always so friendly to our needs (blackouts).
For announcers and color-commentators, there’s the dread of “dead air” that is typically avoided by crowd noise, and therefore, a need to keep talking (ugh).
Teams are working overtime to create sound artificially, but not all teams are doing so (thank you!).
But it’s mostly the players who are fighting a dual battle. It begins with winning.
A new element has been added that requires a good deal of concentration that is usually devoted to hitting that 95 MPH slider coming in on your hands from Justin Verlander – to follow the mandated safety guidelines installed jointly by MLB and CDC.
Don’t spit—no sunflower seeds. Count how many are in the player’s dining area before you enter. Maintain a six-foot distance between you and the teammate who has just hit a game-winning solo home run – or else?
No, of course not, and the “penalty” for inadvertently falling prey to a habit like spitting promises not to be a significant focus of attention among the suits at MLB. To be sure, though, players will be quick to self-police themselves with a reminder to the offender – “Hey, c’mon man, we’re all in this together.”
2020 MLB Season: A New Era And Thankfully – A New Day
Teams don’t win a World Championship without a high level of camaraderie. But today, another, and perhaps even a more elevated level of what it means to have a cohesive clubhouse, has been added to the mix.
Typically an oversight, players are taking to heart the need to follow the restrictions placed on them as being for their own good – as well as the welfare (read safety) of anyone they happen to establish contact.
Baseball had seen the day when hero worship meant a 12-year-old watching their favorite player loading up a wad of chewing tobacco, grabbing a paper cup (or maybe not), and letting loose with a four-foot cast of spit.
Today, players like Clint Frazier and so many others will choose to wear a cumbersome and uncomfortable face mask at-bat, in the field, and wherever the day takes them.
That’s big. Because we don’t always make the right choices, and it may be rationalization speaking, but we can be grateful that amidst a pandemic, many of us have seen fit to do the right thing – even if it’s been forced on us.
The 2020 MLB Season: An Adventure Like No Other
Forced to adapt, MLB has by offering new changes, some experimental and others permanent, that makes this 2020 MLB season like no other. Who knows where she blows?
From a universal designated hitter to the three batter minimum for each reliever, on to the placement of a runner on second to begin each half-inning of an extra-inning game – the entertainment value for the average fan is intensified.
Long-time fans may rightfully argue pro and con about the effects of these rule changes, but they haven’t been made for us. Baseball needed a kick in the ass, and ironically it’s been given a good one by COVID.
So whether it’s a nerdy expression of love coming from a fan of more than a half-century, I feel proud of the fact that Major League Baseball is the first major sport to figure out a way to make its season happen in the wake of all that can go wrong.
Who would have thought? Within days – it’s game on!