Whew. Big sigh of relief. I can easily recall the worry from this summer when Major League Baseball announced it was going to go with a short 60 game season. A good number of people were in a tizzy, wondering how they could do anything in the middle of a pandemic. Wasn’t everyone going to get sick and die? One has to wonder how those people manage to get out of bed in the morning…. It turned out that MLB’s protocols for a very large part worked. There were a few “outbreaks”, but those seemed to have been entirely the result of players and staff violating the protocols. And, thankfully, there were no serious cases.
The season was one big experiment with rules designed to speed up the games given the limited time available before the playoffs. Hopefully the only new rule that will be kept is the DH in the National League. It’s coming eventually; one might as well get used to it. But seven inning doubleheaders and that “runner on base in extra innings” had better be dumped into the trash bin.
The same for the sixteen teams making the playoffs. This year, two teams snuck in with losing records. One of them – the Milwaukee Brewers – managed to get a spot without ever being over .500 for a single day during the season. A playoff berth should never be a reward for mediocrity. MLB *might* be tempted to keep it for the sake of revenue, or when they eventually expand to thirty-two teams. Nonetheless, no matter how you seed them or schedule the rounds, having half the teams in the sport earn a playoff berth is not something to be desired.
I’ve also been reading a lot of wailing over the lack of off days in the playoff schedule, and that MLB is trying to figure out how to get fans in the stands for the World Series. For the former, how about you win your series early? You won’t have to play a Game Five if you win the series in four games. As to the latter – how about letting the families of the players and staff show up? The protocols have kept families apart over the season; not only won’t TV have to show empty stands, but the families have been through quite a bit of stress, too. Let them have some fun and see each other, and take part in the celebrations.
Whatever, let’s have some good and fun games! And maybe some upsets!
As far as the awards are concerned, it turned out that sixty games is just about enough for a fair determination. Sentiment was leaning towards Jacob deGrom winning the NL Cy Young (it would have been his third straight), but a minor injury and a comparatively poor outing in his last start put the kibosh on that. I’d love to see it go to Trevor Bauer, in part because the Cincinnati Reds have never had a Cy Young winner. Cleveland’s Shane Bieber is a much easier choice in the AL. For the MVP Awards, the White Sox’ Jose Abreu has a strong case in the AL. In the NL, there’s no single true stand out player. Freddie Freeman? Fernando Tatis Jr.? Mookie Betts? Juan Soto? Look for it coming down to which player gets the most second place votes….
And let’s keep doing all we can to beat back the coronavirus, so we can have a normal season life next year.