Everyone’s sure to have their own take on the way the game was played in 2020.
The 2020 Major League Baseball season. It’s quite easy to say there’s never been anything like it. Yes, there have been shortened seasons, during wars and strikes, with 1994 being the previous one. But those were nothing like this season, which almost didn’t happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Truth is, it’s hard to complain about a baseball season when so many lives have been affected by and lost in the United States and worldwide. We all know there are more important things than a pennant chase and a batting champ.
But, somehow a season was started and is wrapping up. Fans were asked what they liked and disliked about the 2020 season: It’s about what they’ve missed. What they’ve seen. Or how they feel. You might agree with some, disagree with others, and have some thoughts of your own. And in many cases, you might have mixed feelings about some of the things that are taking place.
Let’s take a look.
For fans looking on the bright side:
1. We get to see baseball! It would have been hard to lose an entire season of baseball. Yes, the regular season is half as long, but our teams and our players are able to compete. Unfortunately, we’ve been able to see it only on TV…if we’re lucky.
2. A runner on second to start extra innings. Lots of fans like (or don’t mind) this added wrinkle. It is fair, in that both teams get to start their extra innings that way, and it has helped to eliminate those marathon games. Of course, most fans will simply say that it’s not real baseball.
3. The artificial noise. Hey, if we get to watch games on television only, at least it’s good to hear some crowd noise, even if it’s pumped in. Somehow, it helps to make us feel as if the teams are being cheered on.
4. Fun banter from the dugouts. Crowd chatter and cheers have always drowned out dugout talk. Not this season. During radio and televised games, microphones have picked up player talk from the dugout in real time. It hasn’t always been good. F-bombs and other R-rated language have been easy to pick up, and hard to mute. Who knew our friendly faced players talked like longshoremen! Well, maybe we knew it, but we just didn’t hear it. We do now.
5. More teams have a chance to win the World Series. This year, 16 teams (!) total will be in the playoffs. That means an eighth-seeded team could upset a top contender. Only five teams in the National League and five from the American League made the playoffs last year (10 total).
6. Bring back the doubleheader! The doubleheader had pretty much disappeared from baseball. The typical season has 162 games. This season, they played only 60. But, due to COVID-related complications and some weather issues, teams have played more doubleheaders than they have for ages. Last year, the Marlins played one doubleheader, the Phillies two. In this shortened season, the Marlins and Phillies have played four doubleheaders each…in September! The Cardinals have played seven doubleheaders so far in September. They played only three for all of 2019. For fans who like the concept of a doubleheader, it’s something to remember.
7. Dodger Stadium is being used as a COVID testing facility.With no fans in the parking lot during 2020, Dodger Stadium has been turned into a coronavirus testing site, considered to be the largest in the state. At one point, they were testing 6,500 people daily, three times more than at any other facility.
For fans looking at the downside:
1. We can’t see our teams in person. How many of you have missed going to the ballpark for the first time in years? Or Opening Day. Or heading to the game with a group of friends, or your dad, or your son or daughter. There’s no replacing that. It’s called the fan experience.
2. Not seeing your favorite player in person. Just about every team has a new player that fans are excited about. This year, you can see them on TV but not in person. There’s a difference between saying, “I was there!” and “I saw highlights on the news.” More than that, there are some big-name players, like David Pryce and Buster Posey, who have chosen to sit out the season.
3. Not being able to see a playoff or World Series game. The playoffs are exciting, and the Fall Classic is the pinnacle of the season. However, fans of the AL and NL Pennant winners won’t have the chance to attend the World Series. That’s a huge disappointment, especially for those teams whose fans have long been waiting for a World Series appearance and ring.
4. Your team has played a small group of other teams. To reduce the number of airplane flights and hotel stays, teams have pretty much stayed in their own backyards, so to speak. Major League teams played 19 other teams in 2019; in 2020, they’ve played half as many. So, even on TV, you didn’t get to see your team play many of the best teams and best players in the League.
5. The expanded playoff structure. The top eight teams from the NL and AL are invited to the playoffs, based on a mix of the standings and records. This rubs a lot of fans the wrong way. Last year, 10 MLB teams made the playoffs. This year, 16 teams did. That’s more than half of all MLB teams!
6. Seven-inning doubleheaders. What is this, Little League? Some fans have wondered if MLB is going to adopt the “mercy rule” too! For baseball purists, a scheduled seven-inning game just is not a real Major League Baseball game.
7. Playoffs in a neutral site. Only in the first round of the playoffs will the top-seeded home team have “home-field advantage.” Rounds 2 and 3 will be played at ballparks in California and Texas, and it’s already been decided that the World Series is going to be played at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Well, because home-team fans can’t go to games anyway, does it matter? Yes.
Is anybody happy?
You could argue both sides of each point, and there are more that aren’t covered here but that we’ve heard about. Some fans are happy that the National League has been forced to use the designated hitter; others hate it and hope it doesn’t stick around.
Fact is, no one is happy about this truncated season, filled with odd rules, no real high-fives, no fans, and no sunflower seeds in the dugout. Even managers and players have come out and said that not only is it not the same, but that it’s no fun.
Still, we as baseball fans have needed something to lift our spirits, and it was good to see that the teams found their way back onto the field. It just happened to be different from anything we’ve ever seen—and likely will not ever see again in our lifetimes.
We can only hope that next season is normal—not to make baseball fans happy, but as a clear indication that our country is over this pandemic, and that it has become part of the past, gone from our lives for good.