This is going to be a blast.
No matter how we got to this point, and regardless of the turmoil we witnessed in the previous two months and the strife we might get a year and a half from now, we are about to have Major League Baseball like we’ve never seen it before.
A sprint. A crapshoot. A royal rumble. A complete scramble.
That is what MLB’s newly implemented 60-game season will be. Unlike any baseball season we’ve seen before – and a whole lot of fun!
The players and owners fought over payouts and number of games for way too long, and way too publicly. They angered and frustrated fans. They risked their place in the sports landscape and set the stage for contentious negotiations when the current CBA expires in December of 2021. Haggling over billions of dollars now will still be fresh in memories by then, and the league will again risk alienating and losing fans at a time when it’s already bleeding them.
But if we can just focus on now – these games that starts July 24 – this season is going to be raucous. While our brains know that during a six-month season every game counts, we don’t really feel the urgency in June, July and August. This year, though, every game will feel like it has meaning and ramifications heaped on it. From Game 1 to Game 60.
Maybe it won’t feel like a playoff atmosphere, because you need a buzz around the ballpark for that. And without fans in the seats, that won’t happen.
That won’t change the fact that the standings are the standings, though. And like Yogi Berra famously said, it’s going to get late early out there.
If a team falls into a hole in the first few weeks – teams like the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals or the favorite New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers – there isn’t an entire summer to get back into it. Again, this marathon, in which mistakes can be overcome over time, just turned into an all-out sprint to the finish.
For teams who aren’t expected contenders, a hot start could carry them through two months and make them a high seed in the postseason. Then, all it takes there is some luck and timely pitching and hitting.
Part of the new agreement is keeping the playoff teams at 10 – 5 in each league – making every game of this new season that much more important.
Even before “spring training” or the season start, we might have some fast-paced fireworks coming out of the hot stove. Teams can start trading players on Friday, and with expanded rosters and a different kind of season on the horizon, teams will be looking to retool. The same could be said about the new Aug. 31 trade deadline, where teams will be a month into this new reality with only a month left to play before the playoffs.
The purist and traditionalist might hate this. There are new rules and the champion will have baseball’s dreaded asterisk next to it. The game’s beloved stats will be looked at with a side eye. Some of that is understandable.
But for everything MLB and the players put the fans through over the last couple months, fans deserve to just sit back and appreciate this for what it is. Let these games be the reward for all the negativity fans had to endure for this season to happen.
So, let us take this all in. Be happy that baseball is back, and enjoy the ride because it will be a wild and unpredictable one.