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It shouldn’t have to be said that we need baseball back in our lives because a) it’s so obviously true and b) what we really require are more hospital beds, ventilators and the rest of the front-line essentials in the war against COVID-19.
But we missed Opening Day on March 26, staring instead at MLB‘s empty landscape, thinking how great it would’ve been to head out to the ballpark. Or flip on the TV to catch the first pitch instead of watching reruns of old games. Or just fall in love with the sport all over again.
Baseball historically gets down to business on Day 2, but nothing renews the bond like the season opener. It’s full of pageantry and ceremony and excitement—not to mention hope for all 30 clubs. Anything is possible when your team is 0-0.
Those win-loss records remain frozen as America wages war on the virus. Someday soon (hopefully), baseball will be a small part of the cure. For now, unfortunately, we’ll have to do without its blessings.
Here’s what we’re missing in the meantime—and a few things we aren’t.
What We Miss: The Washington Nationals’ Defense of Their World Championship
The more we learned about the Houston Astros’ years-long cheating scandal, the better it felt to know the good guys won last October. The Nats were old and seemingly outgunned, having to play Games 6 and 7 in Minute Maid Park. But justice prevailed: They stuck it to the Astros by a combined score of 13-4 to win it all.
Who knows if the Nationals can go 2-for-2 in miracles this year without Anthony Rendon? We’ll just have to wait a little longer to find out.
What We Won’t Miss: Rob Manfred’s War on the Minor Leagues
John Raoux/Associated Press
The commissioner is a smart man—Harvard law degree and all—but you have to wonder about his common sense trying to squash the game’s little guys. Fortunately, his scorched-earth campaign, which called for the elimination of 42 minor league teams, has been put on hold.
Perhaps in the interim, someone will remind the commissioner that baseball’s pipeline is fed by fans who actually prefer rooting for prospects instead of full-blown stars in smaller, more intimate settings at more affordable ticket prices. Manfred wasn’t wrong when he pointed out that many of those minor league clubs lose money, but the collateral damage of excising 42 organizations is too extreme.
What We Miss: Seeing Gerrit Cole in Pinstripes
He’s the New York Yankees’ most dramatic upgrade in a generation, promising to be ready for the hype, the noise and the haters who curse the Bombers for buying the highest-priced $324 million talent. No arguing that point: The Steinbrenners created their own stimulus package for manager Aaron Boone.
Now let’s see if Cole is as good as advertised. Our instinct leans toward a strong yes. But remember, there’s a difference between being great and being great in New York.
What We Won’t Miss: Knowing the Astros Got Away With It
What We Miss: Chris Sale and the Red Sox Overall
It’s pure hindsight now, but why didn’t Sale undergo surgery after being shut down last August? The Sox medical team instead waited seven months to decide on Tommy John reconstruction, which leaves Boston with a rotation of Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, perhaps Ryan Weber and perhaps Collin McHugh. That’s obviously not going to cut it in 2020.
What We Won’t Miss: Wondering Why Ronald Acuna Jr. Doesn’t Always Hustle
What We Miss: The Beauty of the Perfectly Choreographed Double Play
Don’t hate on Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa for their defense, because no tandem turns a smoother 4-6-3.
What We Miss: Noah Syndergaard Finally Turning into a Complete Pitcher
Just a hunch that this was going to be the year the Mets righty would evolve from a primal velocity machine into a thinking man’s pitcher. Syndergaard’s progression will be on hold until 2021, as he underwent Tommy John surgery last week.
Looking back, his power arsenal was both a blessing and a curse. No major league starter threw harder last year, as he averaged 98.1 mph with the four-seam fastball. Paired with a wipeout slider, Syndergaard had the ability to devastate hitters. Problem was, he cared about domination more than efficient outs and often tired the second time through the order.
It’s anybody’s guess if the added stress resulted in a torn ligament. One way or another, Syndergaard has learned his lesson. Unfortunately for the Mets, it just happened to be the hard way.
What We Miss: Mike Trout Busting It to First Base on Routine Grounders. Every. Single. Time.
What We Won’t Miss: The Slow, Steady Rise of Robot Umpires
This is another mistake Manfred seems intent on making. Automated umps were to be introduced this spring with fuller integration in 2021. Look, everyone wants to get the calls right, but the robots are not the cure-all—at least not yet.
One Atlantic League umpire who oversaw the experiment of motion sensors calling balls and strikes said the equipment was wrong “about 20 percent of the time. And on close pitches it couldn’t make up its mind—no call either way.”
What We Miss: Real Arguments Between Old-School Managers and Human Umpires…Soon to be Extinct
What We Miss: Big, Loopy Curveballs That Defy Gravity
We’re looking at you, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
What We Miss: Finding Out If the White Sox are Legit
They’re probably not ready to pressure the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, but don’t sleep on that young rotation or the run production from the Tim Anderson/Yoan Moncada combo.
What We Miss: Finding Out If the Yankees Can Stay Healthy
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
The Bombers sent a record 30 players to the injured last in 2019, so the odds of a market correction were good this year, right? Not so fast.
Before camp was even a month old, they’d already lost Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, not to mention James Paxton, who had offseason back surgery, and Gary Sanchez, whose lower lumbar stiffened up in the final days before the Grapefruit League games were halted.
So what gives with the Yankees’ training regimen? You don’t think general manager Brian Cashman is asking the same question?
What We Won’t Miss: Four-hour games. Now or ever.
As the days and weeks pass without America’s pastime, waiting for its return, you remember the truth in Jim Bouton’s famous ending to Ball Four: “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”