NEW YORK – So, where were we?
Mid-March, a spring training exhibition between the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. Even before the final out, both sides had gotten the official word: Major League Baseball was shutting down immediately because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It felt like the most meaningless baseball game in the history of the sport,” Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter said.
So now, they’ll try again.
A skewed, 60-game schedule, rather than the full plate of 162, with opening day on July 23 or 24. A shortened, contorted season ordered by Commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday night after billionaire owners and multimillion-dollar players couldn’t come to a new economic agreement against the backdrop of the virus outbreak.
“What happens when we all get it?” Milwaukee pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted this week.
From the start, a sprint to the finish. Got to come out strong. Remember last year: The Washington Nationals began 27-33 and wound up hoisting the World Series trophy.
Perhaps it’s the perfect setup for outsiders like the San Diego Padres or Seattle Mariners to sneak into the championship chase.
Let’s not forget those Houston Astros, either. They were the biggest story in baseball when we last saw them, with fans taunting José Altuve, Alex Bregman and their accomplices following the trash can-banging, sign-stealing scandal that made national headlines over the winter.
Some things, chances are, won’t change when the games resume.
No minor leagues this year, tough luck there. The majors, meanwhile, give new meaning to short-season ball.
A look at what’s on deck:
An automatic runner on second base to begin all extra innings. Designated hitters in NL games. Pitchers with their own personal rosin bags.
This season will look like no other in baseball history, the price for trying to play amid a pandemic.
“So long National League. It was fun while it lasted,” Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright tweeted.
The extra-inning rule, that’s bound to bring new strategy, different stats to dissect and an innovative twist on the old game. It’ll be – aw, heck, who are we kidding? It will be Major League Baseball meets Central Park softball.
Just hoping that experiment doesn’t stick around in ’21.
Fly it high
OK, say Francisco Lindor helps Cleveland win a most elusive World Series title. Or Christian Yelich leads the Brewers to their first flag.
Fans will certainly argue: Is it a legitimate crown or more like a prize won during some European soccer tournament?
Kay Kenealy, a 59-year-old from Waukesha, Wisconsin, who has a 20-game ticket package to Brewers games, took a meaty swing at the debate.
“The season’s the season. It’s kind of like with the Bucks in the running for an NBA championship. A championship’s a championship,” she said. “If the season’s a month long, you play for that month.”
“Whether it be the Brewers or the A’s or someone like that that wins the World Series, I don’t think that requires an asterisk. I think everybody for the next 100 years is going to know that this was a pandemic year.”
All-Star aces Chris Sale, Luis Severino and Noah Syndergaard are out while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
But these extra months might’ve given Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels and more time to fully recover. Who knows, maybe even Yoenis Céspedes has healed up.
And additional time off could’ve given Shohei Ohtani a cushion to build up his arm strength. Sure is neat having a two-way star to track in the majors.