Major League Baseball is really trying.
The league is doing their darnedest to have a 2020 baseball season, despite the global pandemic that has forced us all into isolation, apprehensive of coming in contact with even our closest friends and family members let alone a stadium full of 40,000 people screaming and drinking and punching each other in mass gatherings.
The mere thought of trying to stage a professional sports season in this current environment seems crazy, but baseball wants to be the first major professional sport to return to action. To do so would have to occur without those fans in the stands and, according to some of the proposals that have been floated publicly, would come with this season looking completely different than any season that came before.
Personally, I’m all for baseball anarchy. I want to have baseball in some form this year, whether that means a regular season with lots of shortened doubleheaders, a half-season, games played exclusively in Arizona, a season with leagues morphed from American League and National League to Cactus League and Grapefruit League, or even a World Baseball Classic-like tournament late in the summer/early fall.
The obstacles to making all this happen are obvious and on many previous episodes of Hittin’ Season, including the latest, Episode 374, which you can listen to right here, we’ve laid them all out. Gate receipts, players forced to separate from their families for months on end, travel restrictions, and lots more.
But whatever happens, whatever baseball decides to do, one thing is certain.
The 2020 MLB season would be the strangest, weirdest, most bizarre baseball season the league has ever seen.
This is a professional sports league that conducted their seasons largely the same way every year since the late 1800s. The country fought two World Wars, and there was a World Series. It suffered the devastating effects of 9/11, and there was a World Series. It dealt with a crippling depression, and there was a World Series. And there have been numerous other moments in time that baseball has steamrolled through, with a World Series at the end.
Only the strike-altered 1981 season gave us a postseason that one could consider wonky. When the strike hit in the middle of the season, it was decided that the season would be broken up into two halves once play began again, where the first half “champion” in each of the four divisions played the second half “champion” in an League Division Series best-of-5 to see who would go on to the League Championship Series. That year, the Cincinnati Reds had the best record in the NL West but didn’t make the playoffs because they didn’t “win” either half. However, no one looks back on that Dodgers vs. Yankees World Series as anything less than legitimate.
The oddball 1981 season, however, won’t hold a candle to whatever weird scenario may or may not play out in 2020.
All of this begs the question, how would an eventual 2020 world champion be remembered? If the divisions and leagues as we knew them, as well as many of the rules and basic structures of the game are altered in order to get this season in, will it affect the legitimacy of that champion? Would that champion be illegitimate? Would it go down in the annals as a true World Series champion, blemish-free?
In a very small poll I recently conducted online, only a scant few felt that a Phillies World Series title would not be legitimate.
Let's get crazy and say we have a shortened 2020 season where all the games are played in Arizona or this Grapefruit vs. Cactus League format with different divisions or some other arrangement. If the Phillies win the World Series, how would you judge it?— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) April 10, 2020
Of course, many responders joked that a Braves or Mets world championship would certainly be illegitimate, but at the end of the day, the numbers above tell the story.
Certainly, were the Phillies, or any other team, to win the 2020 World Series, it wouldn’t be just another flag flying atop the stadium. It wouldn’t be just another trophy in the trophy case. This would be the “Coronavirus World Series,” coming at the end of a season that would be the most aberrational in the history of the sport. The story of that title would need to be told each and every time.
Depending on how different the season turns out to be (if there even is one), perhaps an asterisk should be placed next to it, to signify for people 50 years later that something truly strange and unique took place. Perhaps that wouldn’t be necessary, given that all 30 teams would have to abide by the same strange set of rules that are almost certainly to accompany a 2020 season.
If there is a baseball season this year, the eventual champion won’t be illegitimate, but it will be different, and it will need to be told in context of what we have all lived through.
Provided Major League Baseball and the player’s union can come with a plan that doesn’t force players to have to choose between the game and their families and can assure their safety and safety of the others, I’m game for whatever comes our way.
And if the Phillies win it all, the celebration, parade or not, will be just as sweet, and the flag will fly just as high.
It’ll just have an incredible story to go along with it.
If MLB comes has to change divisions around or dramatically alter the 2020 season in some way, how will you view the eventual champion.
This poll is closed
Legit, but with an asterisk
Not a really real champion