The Asterisk Season

Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers, writing at ESPN, start their baseball story like this:

Major League Baseball plans to hold a 60-game season that will begin around July 24 but first needs players to sign off on a health-and-safety protocol and to pledge to arrive at home stadiums by July 1 to prepare for the season, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.

It is my firm belief there is no way the players are going to sign-off on whatever the health and safety protocols are going to be. Why? Because there is a GLOBAL PANDEMIC OUTSIDE AND IT’S NOT GOING AWAY!!!

Sorry. Didn’t mean to yell right there, but sometimes you have to make your voice heard.

Everyone seems to underestimate the danger COVID-19 brings to people. You might be a lucky one who gets it, gets over it, and moves on. You might not be. And if you have a compromised immune system or other underlying health concerns, you don’t want to get this virus.

Will Leitch in New York Magazine has written about the terribleness of this moment in time concerning sports and, specifically, baseball. 

I learned to love sports because I loved baseball first. I’ve written books about it, and I spend weeks every year visiting stadiums around the country. My taciturn, midwestern father and I talk about baseball in a way that we’ve never been able to talk about anything else. And I’ve afflicted my 9-year-old son with this disease. Three months into all this, he still comes upstairs every morning to ask me if I know when baseball is coming back yet. I write about baseball professionally, for this publication and several others, including MLB.com itself. I had a few pieces in the World Series program last year, and seeing my name and my words that close to my favorite sporting event on the planet has the 7-year-old version of me doing backflips. An alarmingly high percentage of the most memorable moments of my life involve baseball in some way, shape, or form. This is my sport.

Baseball is my sport too. In fact, it’s my family’s sport. My Uncle Tom was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and played in their minor league system. My Uncle John chose to pursue a family instead of joining his teammates at spring training for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I have two other cousins who played professionally, but never really made it past A ball. John and Tom became coaches, scouts, and raised their families. My Dad learned baseball from his older brothers and was often a coach for my brother and me. 

For me, there is nothing more energizing than to sit and watch a Major League Baseball game with my Dad and my brother (an excellent college player and coach himself) and talk about what’s happening on the mound, behind the catcher’s glove, and in the dugouts. I love watching my nephew throw his wicked curveball and make hitters look ridiculous. 

Baseball is my family’s sport. 

I want baseball back, just to have a small taste of something nostalgic and normal. Baseball is not boring to me. Each pitch changes the trajectory of the game. It’s something new each time. New and old. 

I love that game 32 is meaningful and also not meaningful in a long 162 game season. A relaxing afternoon of watching pitch and catch can be soothing to me. It can be as restorative as sleep, a deep meditation with the smells of freshly cut grass, leather, and sunflower seeds. A 60 game season is a sprint. Nothing is relaxing or soothing in it. A season like this will be here and over so fast no one will care except billionaire owners trying to staunch operating losses in the millions. 

Most importantly, what if there’s a horrible outbreak of COVID-19, and the shortened season is cut short again? Who do we blame? What if an athlete or coach dies because of this? I don’t need baseball that much. Do you?

There should not be baseball played in 2020. I think the players will reject the protocols. I think if a majority vote to report and play, several stars of the game will sit this season out. It’s not safe. Nothing has changed. 

If there’s any season, fans won’t take it seriously. It will be a full asterisk season. The only fans who will care will be the ones of the team that wins the World Series. 

And it will still be the asterisk season, and it will still be meaningless.