Updated: Mar 25, 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic turning the world upside down the past few weeks, many questions have arisen. Specifically, in the sports landscape, one of the biggest question marks on everyone’s mind is if baseball will be played in 2020. With Spring Training already cancelled, and the MLB commissioner Rob Manfred postponing the league eight weeks to be in accordance with the CDC’s current recommendations, the earliest anyone will be on the diamond is May 10th.
For a minute let’s assume that the United States gets through this pandemic in the next few months (whether it be early May or even July). How will a shortened, possibly even cut-in-half baseball season affect the sport? Putting aside any financial consequences, how will players, organizations, and the league in general put forth the 2020 MLB season?
Let’s think back to last season, the Washington Nationals, amidst many early-season issues and sign stealing scandals from counterparts, won their first World Series Championship in franchise history. A true underdog. Let’s think about how they got there for a minute. Following a loss to the Mets on May 23rd, the Nationals held a record of 19-31. For context, only one team with a record that atrocious through 50 games in baseball history had ever gone on to even make the postseason.
Following those first 50 games, the Nationals put together the best record in baseball for the remainder of the season. After an improbable Trent Grisham error on a Juan Soto base hit, the Nationals stormed back to take the Wild Card Game from Josh Hader and the Brewers 4-3 and go on to face the incomparable 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers. A few days later, following some outstanding pitching performances by Stephen Strasburg, another Kershaw postseason meltdown, and a clutch Howie Kendrick grand slam, the Nationals were off to St. Louis for the NLCS. It would be an overstatement to even call those next four games a “Championship Series,” as the Nationals pitching decimated the Cardinals to the tune of a four-game sweep. The Fall Classic would then live up to its name, as four road wins and another clutch Howie Kendrick home run would end up giving the Nationals the title. A phenomenal team, to the tune of “Baby Shark” as their rally cry, went on to defeat the two heavyweights of baseball to claim their crown. Now let’s think, would that even have the chance of happening with a shortened season?
The 2019 Nationals aren’t the only case here, the storybook 2011 Cardinals run lead by David Freese is another scenario that comes to mind. Every sports fan has seen the iconic moment from Freese in some sort of "best sports moments" video, who in game 6 hit a two-run triple to tie the game in the 9th inning as his team was down to their final strike of the season. That would have never happened with a shortened season, the Cardinals were 10 games out of the second wild card spot on August 28th. It took an incredible run in the final month, along with an equally horrific collapse by the Braves for the Cardinals to even make it to October.
There’s no denying that baseball must go on for as much time as it can once this pandemic has passed us; however, impacts such as this may arise and create controversy. Not only could teams who have caught fire in the “later” part of the shortened season be robbed of a chance to compete in October, but specific players could also miss out on awards. People’s careers could be affected. Potential historic moments could be wiped out.
Obviously baseball is not nearly the most important topic in the world currently, as the number one priority is keeping everyone safe and getting through the Coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless while every baseball fan has time on their hands to reflect, the topic of the consequences, or even lost Cinderella stories associated with the shortened season, should be something to think about.