As they say better late than never for Major League Baseball.
Welcome to the everybody-is-impacted -by-COVID-19 party MLB, even if you are a few months of reality late.
Yes, our National Pastime saved a little bit of face this week when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred decided to implement a 60-game season. This came after a ping-pong negotiation that saw MLB issue a proposal that the Players Union rejected. The Players Union responded with its own proposal and MLB rejected. The two sides couldn't agree on a compromise in a time when literally every person on the planet has had to compromise on how they've lived the last 3 ½ months.
In a time when unemployment is soaring off the charts, people are struggling during a time of global pandemic, nobody wants to hear about fighting between billionaires and millionaires. But yet, the in-fighting and constant struggle between the two sides was played out on news media throughout the world. It probably did irrevocable damage to the sport that if fans were allowed to attend games this year, which I suspect they won't be, you would see a huge drop in attendance.
This was a sport already on life support with the younger fans when compared to more popular sports like the NFL, NBA and college football, before the pandemic. It's likely not to improve its status after this latest debacle.
But as I am a sports fan focused on the future and not the past, I look with anticipation to July 23-24 when games will begin. What does a 60-game mean for a sports league that's accustomed to playing 162 games? It's no longer a marathon spread out over six months. It's a sprint to the finish with the playoffs decided in just over two months. Teams can ill-afford sluggish starts or two weeks of really bad baseball. Remember when last year's World Champions, Washington Nationals, started 19-31. A repeat of that 50-game stretch and the defending champions will be out of the playoff chase before it really even begins.
It's unlike anything we've ever seen before. World Series favorites could very well not make the playoffs. Teams with low ceilings could very well crash the playoff party this season. And with the Braves, can they make it three straight National League East Division championships? I hope so. I'm just glad we're finally in a position to talk baseball again. And not listen to bickering over money. America is not willing to listen to it. At least I'm not.
—Clint Thompson is a special contributor to The Union-Recorder.