Baseball, by some rumors, is back. It will be brief, but, as Jason Gay questions in the WSJ, will it be better?
Assuming there are no disruptions due to Covid-19, there will be only 60 games since it’s so late in the season, instead of the traditional 162 games.
As Mr. Gay observes, lopping off 102 games is one “heck of a haircut.”
Will Baseball Be Recognizable
You know what the ballpark poets say: A baseball season is about the passage of time, the rhythm of life, the gentle metamorphosis from spring to autumn, yadda, yadda, and all that, please give me a hot dog and a beer, I can’t take it, it’s a sport, not an MFA writer’s workshop.
Still, 60 games in a little more than two months? the shortest season in Major League history.
But then Mr. Gay has another thought:
What if we like it?
A little baseball could really go a long way. What if 60 games of regular season baseball is exactly the right amount?
It isn’t like 60 is a tiny number. It’s not like they can knock the season out in a weekend. Plenty of baseball leagues have seasons that run far fewer than 162 games, and they seem to be just fine.
We all know baseball has time problems. Even if you don’t think a 162-game season is too long—and who doesn’t think a 162-game season is too long, other than baseball owners and regional television executives, there is no reason players in the World Series should be wearing mittens—you can agree that the individual games are too long. Even baseball knows its games are too long. You shouldn’t be able to drive from Chicago to Iowa City in the time it takes to play a baseball game. In the postseason, you shouldn’t be able to drive from Chicago to Rio de Janeiro.
As Jason notes, he hasn’t even gotten to the best part about this MLB season:
They’re going to start extra innings with an automatic runner on second base.
I am not sure what part about this innovation I like the best: the actual second-base runner rule change, which sounds like a sandlot innovation—the only thing that would be better is if the runner was a ghost runner—or the fact that snobby purist fans, already completely freaked that the National League will play with a designated hitter, sound like haute chefs, agitated that baseball is becoming a microwaved pizza bagel.
And this could be progress. Everything in life could stand to be shorter: sports, movies, presidential campaigns, college, meetings, phone conversations. P.T. Barnum is credited with saying Always leave them wanting more and it’s a useful governing philosophy, not just for baseball, but for all of life. All of us should be wary of a drive that’s too long, a marriage that’s too long, or a Journal sports column that’s too long, and even worse, is about cycling.
I can’t wait for Opening Day. And then, just a minute later, Game 7 of the World Series.
Play ball! And make it snappy!