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The Morning Briefing: Baseball Is Back, So We Can at Least Pretend to Have a Summer

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, FIle)
It’s Baseball, But Will We Recognize It?

Yes, I’m thrilled to not be writing about plague, masks, riots, or statues this morning. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, you should be able to at least enjoy that too.

Major League Baseball surprised even hardcore fans on Tuesday by announcing that the players’ union and the owners finally agreed on something. That alone was extraordinary given that that the owners and the union have the most dysfunctional relationship in all of professional sports. As readers here are no doubt well aware by now, I love baseball more than I do most people, and even I had reached the point where I didn’t think the two sides would ever get it together in time to salvage any part of this season.

Of course, it’s going to be a baseball season like none we’ve ever seen. Players are to report to training camps on July 1, and the season will start on July 24. It will be only 60 games long, both leagues will have the designated hitter, and there will be a runner on second base to begin each half of extra innings.

Put mildly, it’s a baseball purist’s (guilty) nightmare. However, it’s better than no season at all.

This truncated season will leave little margin for error. One advantage to MLB’s long regular season is that teams can overcome slow starts. The reigning World Series champions the Washington Nationals were 19-31 coming out of the gate last year. This season will be the baseball equivalent of a sprint and any team that wants to contend better hit the ground running.

The runner on second in extra innings thing has been experimented with in the minors and is a variation on something that has been tried in the World Baseball Classic. A friend of mine who is an Angels fan said he liked it in the WBC, but then he also likes the DH, so his taste is suspect. I tweeted a flippant complaint about this rule on Twitter and it got a lot of responses from baseball fans, but honestly, I’ll probably get over it quickly.

OK, I’m probably just putting that out in the universe hoping that I will.

Baseball MLB
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) ()

Sadly for old school National League fans like me, this is probably all the excuse that MLB needs to keep the DH — aka baseball’s greatest shame — around forever in the National League. They’ve been talking about it for a while now the coronapocalypse just opened the back door to make it happen. I reserve the right to hate it forever. Between SABRmetrics and not having to worry about pitchers in the batting order, there really isn’t much baseball for managers to manage anymore. They can be replaced by robots that just roll out to the mound for pitching changes in the near future.

AP featured image
(AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez) ()

My dream was always that MLB would get rid of the DH in the American League, not shoehorn it into the National League. 2020 is the absolute WORST. COVID-19 may one day soon be able to count Major League Baseball among its victims.

It will be weird seeing the empty stands. Well, for most baseball fans, not so much for Miami Marlins fans though. Empty stadiums in all sports are part of this “new normal” that we’re supposed to adjust to.

While every precaution will be taken to make the players and staff safe, it’s still a crapshoot as to how it will all play out. Here is a very good interview with CBS MLB analyst David Samson about the various scenarios and how they might be handled. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted out a question that is no doubt on the minds of a lot of players:

As a Dodgers fan, I was very excited about this season before plague times hit, despite the fact that baseball finds a way to break my heart more often than not. I still am, but I think ESPN may have jinxed it for me yesterday:

1. Mookie Betts in a Dodgers uniform

The February trade that sent Betts and David Price to the Dodgers for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong might have been done to spark a rebuilding of sorts in Boston, but that doesn’t make it any less of a blockbuster. Now we’ll get to see Betts in a Dodgers uniform — and you have to admit, it looked like a perfect fit back in spring training. Of course, Betts would look good in those awful White Sox uniforms from the 1970s with shorts and collars.

Betts is arguably the second-best player in the majors, trailing only Mike Trout in WAR over the past four seasons. Then again, he might be just the second-best player on the Dodgers given that Cody Bellinger was the National League MVP in 2019. Betts makes the Dodgers an even better defensive team — and they might have been the best in the majors already, after finishing second to the Astros last year in batting average allowed on balls in play and first in the majors in defensive runs saved. Bottom line: Whether it’s 60 games or 162 games, the Dodgers are still the World Series favorite.

It’s not quite as damning at the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, but it’s close enough.

If COVID doesn’t rear its ugly head to the extent that Major League Baseball has had to shut everything down again, this quickie season will provide something that Americans — and not just baseball fans — need: a freakin’ diversion. Yeah, it’s just a game. And it may not hold the place in America’s heart that it once did (watch Ken Burns’s brilliant documentary Baseball for perspective on that), but it’s still called our national pastime for now.

At this point, I think most people would rather watch a baseball game than a riot. I say that as a man who would rather watch a baseball game than almost anything but, let’s be honest, we’re all in need of a shiny object now.

One perverse upside to the concern about health by the baseball players is that they don’t have as much time for all of the woke posturing that the NFL is doing right now. The aforementioned dysfunction between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association consumes them with so much dislike for each other that it kind of distracts them from pretty much everything else.

Because this is Major League Baseball, all of this may have blown up in the time between when I posted this and tried to grab a nap. If it is the case that I can’t enjoy even one baseball game this year, I’ll just hang onto my favorite baseball memory from thirty-two years ago:

baseball
(AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy, File) (

 

Reality Is Hard

My Two Cents

PJM Linktank

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Bee Me

The Kruiser Kabana

Hedberg was weird but funny. Didn’t know him well, just bumped into him a few times at the Improv in Hollywood.

Thinking of putting a statue in front of my house and covering it in oil.

___

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PJ Media Senior Columnist and Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author ofDon’t Let the Hippies ShowerandStraight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.” His columns appear twice a week.