We should be well over a month into the 2020 MLB season at this point. However, like most things in life, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused baseball to come to a screeching halt. In recent days though, there has been renewed optimism that we will, indeed, get baseball in 2020 and possibly soon.
The heavyweights of baseball media, Jeff Passan and Ken Rosenthal, have each written stories detailing possible plans to restart our national past time in recent days. Passan writing:
"Over the past two weeks, as states have begun to plan their reopenings, nearly everyone along the decision-making continuum -- league officials, players, union leaders, owners, doctors, politicians, TV power brokers, team executives -- has grown increasingly optimistic that there will be baseball this year."
Even perpetually wrong rumor mongers like Bob Nightengale have gotten in on the act stating that there are as many as 15 potential plans being discussed by the league right now to get the season started in short order. As Passan mentioned above, we've also got local politicians jumping into the fray like Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot (the rare politician that is an actual Sox fan and doesn't just wear a hat), who recently stated:
“...can I envision a world where baseball might return to Chicago this summer? Yes. Is it likely to be without fans? Probably.”
This revelation was particularly interesting. Most of the previous proposals that have been leaked by the media to this point have involved "hubs" essentially creating a biosphere for the players and all necessary staff. The idea that teams may be able to play in their home stadiums is a new wrinkle that I believe is welcomed by all.
Look, the idea of not being able to enjoy a game inside the ballpark at 35th/Shields with you animals until some point in 2021 sucks. But the very fact that we have so many prominent individuals with access to the key decision-makers publicly stating their optimism for baseball to return makes me believe that we will indeed have a season in 2020.
There are still a ton of logistical hurdles that must be overcome for the game to return. Most importantly is a decline in the number of total new cases and deaths from the virus. Aside from this important issue, which is paramount to the discussion, there are issues that must be ironed out by the league and MLBPA.
Given the contentious feelings surrounding the league and MLBPA at the moment, these discussions promise to be arduous and time-consuming. These issues include the length of Spring Training 2.0, location of games, a universal DH (yes, it's coming), roster size (they will be increasing), and oh yeah, revenue split promise to have some fierce debate among the two sides. However, as our nation grows restless with the havoc the pandemic has wreaked upon us, I simply can't envision a scenario where the two sides can't put their collective heads together and get a meaningful resolution that results in the two greatest words in the English language being yelled, "play ball."
If and when baseball returns, the 2020 season promises to be unlike any season in the history of the sport. We are almost assured there will be some sort of realignment for this season (most proposals that have been publicly leaked don't do the Sox any favors). Baseball "purists" will decry the idea of no longer watching pitchers give away outs in the batter's box. Fans may be upset about not being able to see different teams come to their cities and watching stars like Mike Trout in person. Some of us will even despise the notion of the Sox having to play that other team in town more than four times this year (although the silver lining is we wouldn't have to breathe the same air as them in person and run the risk of catching some disease by being in their presence).
All things being considered, the renewed optimism that the game will return is getting my juices flowing. It promises to be a strange season, but I will take strange baseball over no baseball any day of the week. Finally getting to watch our revamped team take the field gives us something to dream about on a rainy day like today. The idea of seeing Luis Robert make his debut and display his freakshow ability provides optimism. Seeing how new additions like "Diamond" Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, and Nomar Mazara gel with maturing talent like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito will help our collective psyche.
At a time when our nation's collective psyche is still reeling in many respects, the return of our national past time can help us move forward together. In baseball, they say that hope springs eternal and there may not be a more appropriate saying for our current situation. Even if that hope comes in the summer technically, it can be seen on the horizon.