There are no hordes, no throngs of media. There are no token pressers, with managers and Game 1 starters behind tables and microphones, no flashbulbs as they talk about ‘mental fortitude’ and ‘how many pitches they’ve got in them.’
There will not be packed houses, no bleachers shaking. There won’t be gratuitous camera shots of corner pubs erupting after big swings, or big Ks.
There will be no victory parades.
There will, however, be a 2020 World Series.
In this year of years we have seen a schedule scrapped, reworked, and put the through absolute ringer of labor negotiations. We’ve witnessed a 162 game schedule shrunk to just 60, played in a trio of isolated regions. We saw rosters expanded, players mysteriously absent, outbreaks and shutdowns. We saw runners start on 2B in extra innings, relievers forced to face three batters, and the designated hitter in National League play.
We saw expanded playoffs, with the Cincinnati Reds even making a token cameo. We’ve seen bone-dry, empty stadiums, with fans detached from their usual fandom. We’ve even seen neutral-site ‘bubbles’ put in place to keep play on-track, taking any and all home field advantage away from all parties involved.
Tonight, we begin to see a bow tied on this 2020 season, one that will (hopefully) never look like any future baseball season. The World Series will begin in Texas, with two teams who are not from Texas, with few handfuls of non-Rays and non-Dodgers fans scattered, covered, and smothered in the new billion-dollar box outside of Dallas. A minimum of four, a maximum of seven more games to be played through a pandemic that has crippled and restructured almost every single aspect of our day to day lives before we put baseball back on the shelf for a few months and wait patiently for its hopeful return to normal.
Normalcy. There’s a novel concept. Instead, we’re about to watch the embers die out on a 2020 season we’d all rather reseal in its glass case, but the reality is that we’ll see ripple effects from it in future seasons for quite some time.
In all likelihood, there will be a DH in the National League ad infinitum, especially with the CBA negotiations set for next year. It was something that had been looming over our heads for years anyway before the unique geographic alignment forced its hand this year, and I doubt we’ll see a return to the old ways now. Perhaps the only way that happens is if the teams truly due cry poor this winter, another residual impact for future years that we could very well be forced to deal with for years. No fans meant serious dents in revenue, and maybe certain NL franchises will realize they won’t want to pay for another bat in their everyday lineup after all.
We’ll also never see the minor leagues return the way they once were, sadly. Rob Manfred and his cronies had already long had thoughts about dismantling and streamlining a system that had formed the backbone of the sport we so love, and the financial issues endured by MiLB franchises this year gave him all the power he needed to put that plan in place. The Appalachian League will no longer feature professional ball, while the Pioneer League may well end up in that ditch, too. Countless other mid-sized cities across the county also stand to lose their one outlet of pro ball, their pipeline to future big league stars, if Manfred’s consolidation plan ends up fully in place.
Anyway. We get one more week of something close to baseball before it goes dormant, a handful or so games between the big money Dodgers and the analytic darling Rays. We’ll see them in the new toaster that will be home to the Texas Rangers one day, we hope. Then, a season that we yearned for for so long will close its books, sending us into a baseball void from which might emerge a completely different animal.
On the one hand, it’s the final chapter in a book so odd nobody in their right mind could’ve conjured it up eight months ago. On the other, it may be the last few games we get to watch with any real ties to how baseball has been for most of our lives.