The Asterisk* Season
With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, changing our everyday life, keeping people in quarantine, and maintaining social distancing, we are looking for releases. Recreational activities are beginning to return, albeit under new rules. Gatherings were shunned, then welcomed, and now are being shunned again.
The pandemic struck in the late winter/early spring, just as baseball was beginning to limber up, stretching out, and preparing to begin its one-hundred-eighty-second season as the National Pastime. It has survived the Civil War, two World Wars, the 1918 Flu pandemic along with various other disasters and catastrophes, both natural and man-made.
While the NBA, NCAA basketball, NASCAR and NHL seasons were brought to a screeching halt, baseball was just starting its engines. It too shut down. But the comeback…
It started in the Orient, with the Korean Baseball League playing their games in empty stadiums, with the games broadcast back here on the all-sports station. Some fans, not naming any names, would get up extra early to watch the games at 3 or 4 AM. Some of the players were known in the U.S., but most were not. But baseball is still baseball.
So here, at home, the powers that be decided to continue the baseball tradition, and re-open the season, eventually.
We know about the difficulties of the negotiations in bringing the game back. It is easy to see both sides of the argument, and still be able to disagree with both.
Yes, the games are scheduled to restart at the end of this month, beginning with empty stadiums. The ‘television money’ will fund the game for the short term. We will see how long that lasts. It would not surprise me to see some sort of advertising on each team’s uniforms (apart from the ubiquitous swoosh.
Sixty games is what they will give us. Re-aligning the divisions to alleviate travel concerns. Designated hitter across both leagues. Designated runner in extra innings. How far will they bend this great game of ours before it breaks?
With the prospect of a hitter getting on a streak and hitting .500, or a few reaching the .400 mark, or the possibility of a pitcher barely being able to reach ten wins, it goes without say that this will be a season where the asterisk is prominent.
But how will history look upon this baseball season?
Will it be glanced over and ignored, or will it be studied like other troubled seasons of the past? The strike-shortened seasons of 1981, 1994 and 1995?
Will the decision to play in 2020 be held with the same reverence as the letter from Franklin Roosevelt to Commissioner Landis requesting that baseball continue as a morale booster during World War II?
Basically, the question will be: Will history be kind to my beloved sport? Will it look at 2020 as something that was done to improve the morale of our countrymen, or will it be seen as an opportunistic money-grab?
I honestly hope that history will support the former, but I fear that it will believe the latter.
I hope I am wrong…
(artwork by my daughter)